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INDUSTRY / MARKET UK

Bectu calls for industry summit as freelancers struggle to recover from the impact of the Hollywood strikes

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- Head of UK creative industry union Philippa Childs penned a letter to the government’s culture secretary Lucy Frazer

Bectu calls for industry summit as freelancers struggle to recover from the impact of the Hollywood strikes

“The time for warm words and platitudes is over,” wrote Head of Bectu Philippa Childs on 27 February in response to a new report from the creative industry union, which revealed alarming figures concerning UK film and TV workers. 

Polling over 4,000 Bectu members, the report offers an update on figures from September 2023, when the strikes in Hollywood were still in place. Although industrial action ended shortly after in late September, UK film and TV freelancers — whose local industry is intricately linked to that of the US — have not seen significant recovery since. 

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Of all the respondents, 68% are not currently working, a small increase compared to the 74% of September 2023, and 30% have had no work at all for the past three months. The proportion of people who are planning to leave the industry altogether within the next five years has increased, reaching 37% in February 2024 from 24% in September 2023 — with those figures even higher for women and non-white members. 

On top of a published statement on the Bectu website, Childs wrote a letter to the government’s culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, calling for “an urgent industry summit, bringing together broadcasters, industry stakeholders and government, to discuss the crisis and possible solutions.” The letter begins with an acknowledgement for the support shown by the culture secretary to the industry, such as extending tax relief to encourage investment from foreign players, and “championing the UK as a great place for film and TV production, due to both the extensive studio space but also the excellent skills and creativity of the crew (our members).” But Childs also evoked recent remarks from the culture secretary, commenting that what Frazer recently described as the “booming” creative industries in the UK was not reflective of the current reality, and that the 2022 figures that the culture secretary was referencing have little bearing on those for 2024. 

Childs’ call for an industry summit comes in the middle of an ongoing inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee about British Film and High-End Television. The Committee questioned industry figures and public funders of TV and independent film in the UK about the reality of their industry during two sessions, the second of which took place on 21 February. 

“We consistently hear from the Secretary of State and other government officials about how much they value the creative industries,” Childs wrote on the Bectu website. “We now call on them to step up, put their money where their mouth is, and take decisive action to protect our much loved and revered film and TV industry, and the workers who make it all happen.”

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