Production growing in the nations and regions

Back in September, I posted here about The Pact Census (as carried out by Oliver and Ohlbaum). I’ve been meaning to pull out something about the impact on regional production from that for a while. So here goes.

Pact chose to highlight this here:
Pact Census 2021

At the moment, the trends are gradually away from London in percentage terms – you can see the Nations and Regions annex to the census – here, but in summary, there is an increasing proportion of commissioning value is spent outside of London – 55% of the total is happening in London, with 45% outside. Continue reading

Posted in BBC, Factual & Entertainment sector data, Film & TV industry data, High End TV data, Public Service Broadcasting, Skills & capacity, Tax incentives, UK studios | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Inflation update (spoiler alert: it’s not good news)

Towards the end of last year, economic forecasters could safely have been described as ‘alarmed’ by inflation figures. I don’t post on this every month (the last real mention was here) and I was briefing members towards the end of the year that inflationary figures were bad, and made worse by the fact that they were going sharply ahead of economists’ predictions.

Earlier in 2021, Bank of England anticipated that CPI inflation would start to rise sharply towards 2% through the spring and remain there for the next couple of years. Those estimates were, it seems, wildly optimistic – driven particularly by rising energy and transport prices, renewed economic growth, inflationary skills shortages and supply chain and wage-increase driven cost increases. Continue reading

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BBC funding statment from the VLV

The Voice of the Listener and Viewer has published the following Briefing note and press release in response to yesterday’s BBC funding settlement.The briefing includes the claim that, on current projections, the BBC will be in deficit by between approximately £3bn and £5bn in 2027.

The exec summary makes a number of points – the one that may leap out for freelancers – particularly those who work in drama for both the BBC and its competitors – is marked in bold (below) – it seems one of the factors that may cause a perfect storm of the kind that has been sketched out here – one that ordinary viewers (and voters) may notice. Continue reading

Posted in BBC, Film & TV industry policy, Politics, Public Service Broadcasting, Regulation, SVoD, Tax incentives, The Conservative Party | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Group decision-making – a guide

Just a bookmark for now – a way of deciding how to make a group decision, and an outline of how and when particular ways of making decisions can work and when they don’t.

Posted in Organising Skills, Recruitment and organising, Workplace conflict | Tagged | Leave a comment

UK Screen issues new guidance following UK government’s ‘Plan B’ announcement

Update – 5th Jan 2022 – the info on the links below has been updated again.

Following tonight’s ‘Plan B’ announcement on CoViD working, my colleague at Bectu, Spencer MacDonald has had this email from Neil Hatton of UK Screen Alliance that we have agreed to share as widely as we can.

Dear Spencer,

This evening the Prime Minister has announced that the government will be enacting Plan B measures in the face of rapidly increasing cases of the Omicron variant, thought to be doubling every three days. The risk of serious illness from Omicron is as yet uncertain. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Safe working practices | Tagged | Leave a comment

Lord Bragg: The BBC is an instutution that is being damaged for political purposes

I can’t find it on the Radio Times website, but the Times is quoting Melvyn Bragg’s article there, saying…

“…as the BBC entered its centenary year, it found itself “sniped at, disparaged and blamed for every current malaise from culture wars to Covid fears”. He said that it was in danger of becoming part of a surrender to “creeping deterioration” as “our great institutions are increasingly damaged for political purposes”.


I mention this as it appears to be part of a growing narrative that the UK’s global standing – and its ability to survive as a single political entity – is being damaged by British politicians as a consequence of Brexit among other factors. Continue reading

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Atypical workers – employment status, tax status, modus operandi – some links

I’m preparing a talk on freelance contracts, and I find that looking at the way different organisations explain things is useful for a number of reasons.

Firstly, their emphasis may give some insight into how they regard the issue differently to someone primarily concerned with the worker’s rights. But secondly, a complex issues are often quite badly explained and it helps to look at the way different orgs do it.

The expected changes for 2022 are particularly interesting from a freelance point of view as it is expected to include changes arising from The Good Work Plan that came out of The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, including possible…

  • compensation for work cancelled without ‘reasonable notice’,
  • right to reasonable notice of working hours,
  • right to more predictable and stable contracts once you have 26 weeks continuous service
Posted in Freelance working, Freelancer rights, IR35, Personal Service Companies, Tax | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Round up – production in the UK

Anyone looking for a good roundup of the UK production landscape – investments, studios, facilities, etc, may find this article in KFTV useful.

A lot of it has been covered here already, though I’m aware I need to post more about non-M25 infrastructure.

Posted in Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, Tax incentives, UK studios | Tagged | Leave a comment

Flexible savings trials to bridge the freelance pensions gap

I’m going to simply cut-and-paste from the press release from Nest Insight here as I think it says everything that needs explaining well enough:

Nest Insight has launched two new pilots to trial flexible savings systems that are designed to fit with self-employed people’s “variable income and future uncertainty”.

Nest Insight is collaborating with PenFold and Moneyhub on the two pilots, which are also supported by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as part of a multi-year programme of work testing ways to help self-employed people save for retirement.

The group emphasised that whilst automatic enrolment has greatly expanded workplace pension saving participation, some savers, such as the self-employed, are still not benefiting. Continue reading

Posted in Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Pensions | Tagged , | Leave a comment

BFI Screen Business report details the scale of the UK production boom

Anyone who has any doubts about the size and scale of the UK production boom can have a look at the latest BFI Screen Business report (if the annual Pact Census most recently published in September wasn’t convincing enough!).

The highlights are that the report shows that record levels of production in the UK across film, high-end TV, video games, children’s TV, and animation sectors have also created the equivalent of 219,000 full-time jobs.

The report confirms that the UK is experiencing the highest ever return on investment to the UK economy of £13.48bn (Gross Value Added) from the UK’s Government’s screen tax reliefs from 2017-2019 across the UK’s nations and regions.

The use of GVA is an interesting one – the Return on Investment shows that – for every £1 of UK Film Tax Relief – it generates £8.30 back to the UK economy. Continue reading

Posted in BBC, Economics, Factual & Entertainment sector data, Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, High End TV data, Public Service Broadcasting, Quotas, Skills & capacity, SVoD, Tax incentives, UK studios | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What do employers need to do to retain talent?

It’s something of a recurring theme from the Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC), but all of the research (including their own work with Autonomy and Survation – [pdf]) point to a need to pay people better, treat them with respect and offer better terms and conditions.

PIRC retention

Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Employment, Employment Law and Rights, Long hours, Low pay, Management, Mental Health, Productivity, Wellbeing, Work-life balance | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shinfield Studios planning permission granted.

Shinfield Studios in Reading is another addition to the UK’s ever-mushrooming production capacity (for details of other recent developments see the UK Studio Watch tag on this site).

Located very close the M4 and nearly 5 miles away from the train station, it’s owned by affiliates of LA-based Commonwealth Asset Management, who are planning to create a global film studios operation (they’re also developing a 93-acre site in LA). It has now been granted full planning permission, with the studio is expected to be in full swing by the end of 2024, but many of the facilities will be in use well before then. Continue reading

Posted in Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, Skills & capacity, UK studios | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Production Safety Passport

In the new year, the union will be doing some promotion for the Health & Safety dimension of our work. This will include the re-constitution of the Bectu H&S committee that stopped meeting during the pandemic.

Each division can send two reps and that committee can then co-opt a number of specialist members.

One key contribution that the union makes is the support we give to the Production Safety Passport. This passport – co-ordinated by ScreenSkills allows freelancers to take their training and then be able to work for any production using it. Continue reading

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A distinctly British focus for TV programmes

David Tennant has been questioning some of the arguments around demands for ‘distinctly British programmes (or ‘lovely jubbly telly‘ as John Whittingdale didn’t say recently).

“Is there some inherent criticism within this plea for more Britishness?” he said in the Radio Times. “Did Britishness mean ‘made in Britain’ or programmes that have a certain political viewpoint?”

The Scottish actor questioned whether the government was actually pleading for artists to be more sympathetic towards it. “Why would the government feel they need more sympathy directed towards them? Perhaps that’s a question they should ask themselves, rather than trying to blame it on the television industry,” he said.

This issue matters for Bectu members because it would be reasonable to assume that – at some point in the near future, overtures will be made to crew to work on UK-commissioned drama instead of on the more global SVoD content that has the capacity to use up all of UK crew skills for the foreseeable future.

Posted in Diversity of representation, EU & Brexit, Film & TV industry policy, High End TV data, Public Service Broadcasting, Quotas, Regulation, SVoD, Tax incentives | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tax avoidance and Umbrella Companies

I’ve been to a presentation from HMRC about a website that they have launched that is aimed substantially at people who are being asked to work through an Umbrella Company.

It tells them how they can avoid charges of tax avoidance by understanding their deal, outlining some of the ways that unscrupulous employers or umbrella companies structure payments. There’s a particular issue with people being offered loans instead of wages are a way of circumventing some tax obligations.

Other examples include employers asking people to reduce their wages to minimum wage so that they can get the income in other more tax-efficient ways. In reality, these schemes are often set up mainly for the benefit of the umbrella company rather than the workers.

The website’ message is “don’t get caught“, and this usually means “don’t get inadvertently get caught up in someone else’s tax-avoidance scheme that doesn’t even offer you any benefits in the first place.”

Posted in Employment Contracts, Employment intermediaries, Employment Law and Rights, Employment status, Gig economy workers, IR35, Loan arrangements, Tax | Tagged | Leave a comment

Knowing how much retirement income you need

Bectu is going to keep nagging freelance members to get a pension because freelancers in the UK generally have shockingly underfunded retirements. There are lots of other posts on this site about pensions if you want to read into this.

But in the meantime, there is a really useful website – ‘Picture Your Future’ – that allows you to calculate what different levels of retirement income mean in terms of your standard of living.

So if you are single, and you want to be able to spend £47 on your weekly shop, have a three-year-old car that is replaced every ten years, spend two weeks a year on holiday in Europe (and a long weekend in the UK as well), have £730 to spend on clothes and shoes, and be able to buy decent birthday presents for loved ones, you are going to need to plan to have an income of £20,800 a year. Continue reading

Posted in Freelance working, Low pay, Pensions, Wages and Pay-rates, Welfare and benefits | Tagged | Leave a comment

Stephen Follows research site

For anyone who hasn’t already found this at some point, via Google, Stephen Follows runs a fine website full of industry research that answers many questions that you have, and a few you didn’t know you have.

Here are some samples…

Posted in Factual & Entertainment sector data, Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Gender representation, High End TV data, Low budget features, Skills & capacity | Tagged | Leave a comment

Working terms in Swedish productions

It’s always worth looking at how other countries do work hours in the film and TV industry, and it is a commonplace view that the Swedish drama sector manages a high quality of production on working hours that also give their crew a work-life balance.

To get to the bottom of this, I called Bectu’s a sister union in Sweden – Scen and Film – The Swedish Union for Performing Arts and Film Sweden.

I gave Eleonor Fahlén there a call to discuss how their productions work. Eleonor tells me that there is an elected paid union rep on each production. In theory, they do their union work during the normal working day, but they sometimes have to do some of it in their own time. They are working on the production but getting some money from the union for their extra work. The productions pay 0.2% of their total freelance wage bill to the union to cover this money. Continue reading

Posted in Bectu Agreements, Employment Law and Rights, EU & Brexit, Factual & Entertainment sector data, Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Health & Safety, High End TV data, Long hours, Major Motion Picture Agreement, Productivity, SVoD, Tax incentives, Trades Unions, TV Drama Agreement, Work-life balance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

BARB to monitor SVoD viewing figures

The rapid rise of Streaming Video on Demand (SVoD)  – with 18.8m UK homes (66%) having at least one SVoD account – has been a particularly rough disruption for traditional linear TV broadcasters for two obvious reasons.

The first is that they have not been able to gauge how far SVoD has eaten into / expanded the size of their market because they’ve not had access to the quality of data that the SVoDs themselves have.

The second challenge is that SVoDs have a significantly better set of feedback loops that they can use to monitor how their product is consumed.

As previously reported here, the British Audience Research Board (BARB) has been surveying and is now ready to share that data – at a price. It will, at least, help to solve the first of those two problems (though smaller indy companies may not be able to afford the £40k starting price. Continue reading

Posted in Film & TV industry data, High End TV data, SVoD, TV Advertising | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Relph Report (2002) on low budget films

In 2022, our Copyright Committee will be looking at issues relating to ‘residuals’ – giving workers ‘points’ in films that they work on.

Just going through the archives, I’ve found The Relph Report from 2002 [pdf] that talked about how low-budget films could deal with the demands for low paid long-hours work.

From the executive summary:

“On the part of crew, the code of practice would include willingness to work for basic rates, without guaranteed payment for overtime that will not necessarily be worked, an openness to multi-tasking and to working within a smaller crew and agreement to live and work on location outside the normal expectations of first-class hotels and catering. Continue reading

Posted in Copyright & Intellectual Property, Economics, Low budget features, Low pay | Leave a comment

BECTU and APA ‘Diversity Action Plan’

Working with the Advertising Producers Association (APA) Bectu has published a Diversity Action Plan [pdf].

With the support of over 100 production companies, the signatories have committed to implement a step-by-step guide to address under-representation, including participation in the Induction Opportunity Scheme to transfer experienced professionals into the sector, and the New Entrants Programme.

They are committed to adopting a template Code of Conduct on all productions and ensuring this is circulated with the call sheet that is sent to all crew at the start of a production. Continue reading

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The Respect Charter for Supporting Artists

In my relatively new roles as Freelance Research Officer, going through the archives, I keep being reminded of things that the union has done in the past that are worth remembering and revisiting.

For example, there are lots of branch initiatives – different groups of workers have used their branches to develop statements of key issues relating to pay, hours, and the levels of respect that they are accorded at work.

One much-needed example that happened shortly before the lockdown was The Respect Charter for Supporting Artists, published by the London Production Division FAA Branch in January 2020.

Like a lot of things that happened before then, this charter may have slipped from the top of everyone’s consciousness. It covers many of the issues that are particularly specific to FAA members and the BECTU/Pact FAA Agreement that governs their working practices.

Supporting Artists have justified grievances around the level of respect that they are treated with when working in a studio or on location. As the charter puts it… Continue reading

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“… the self-employed remain something of an inconvenient afterthought”

There’s a useful post here from Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies highlighting a number of factors that leads to the conclusion that our ecoomy and employment / tax / benefits framework has been designed around an economy that no longer really exists.

The post-war deal – a labour-market dominated by employer/employee relationships – needs re-thinking – particularly (as Paul argues) in relationship to the safety net, the tax system and pension provision (where freelancers are particularly badly exposed – see multiple posts here).

This is all well-and-good. They are arguments that aren’t being made enough. However, there’s another front that I’d suggest Freelancers should be fighting on too. Continue reading

Posted in CJRS & SEISS, Coronavirus, Economics, Employment Law and Rights, Employment status, Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Gig economy workers, Management, Personal Service Companies, Productivity, Welfare and benefits | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bectu – Six demands to challenge bullying and harrasment

At the end of last week, Bectu published a list of six demands intended to challenge bullying and harassment in the UK TV and film industry. The demands were drafted as part of an ‘#unseenonscreen‘ campaign led by Bectu’s Unscripted branch.

The six demands are…

1. All productions should hire an intimacy Coordinator to oversee consent and facilitate safe practices during scenes where intimacy is performed. Intimacy coordinators should:

    • Liaise, consult and coordinate with HODs during the preproduction phase and on set
    • Advocate for cast and crew
    • Oversee informed, specific, and continued consent
    • Help to facilitate actions performed by the cast
    • Support cast and crew who feel emotionally unregulated on set during scenes with intimacy.

Continue reading

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MPs to debate enabling visa and permit-free working for musicians in the EU

Following an online petition – “Seek Europe-wide Visa-free work permit for Touring professionals and Artists” – that received 286,797 signatures, MPs will hold a general debate on enabling visa / permit-free working for musicians in the EU on Thursday 18 November in Westminster Hall.

The debate will be led by Harriet Harman MP, and will last for up to 90 minutes. You can watch the debate here (from 3pm, Thurs 18 Nov) and a transcript of the debate will be published a few hours after the end of the debate here.

General debates allow MPs to debate important issues, however, they do not end in a vote nor can they directly change the law. You can find out more about how Parliamentary debates, including general debates, work here.

Posted in EU & Brexit, Theatre and Live Events data | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shepperton expansion confirmed – with deeper Netflix ties

Further to the previous post about Shepperton Studios here a few months ago, it looks like the support from Spelthorne Council has borne fruit: The Pinewood Group has now announced its decision to further expand Shepperton.

This will expand the capacity to around 1 million sq ft of new production accommodation, and 17 sound stages. They’ve also announced a long-term contract with Netflix, doubling its existing production hub there.

Shepperton is already established as their base but they’ve also recently announced a significant expansion into Longcross too. Continue reading

Posted in Feature film data, High End TV data, Skills & capacity, UK studios | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HSE ‘Working Minds’ campaign launch

The UK Health and Safety Executive has launched a campaign website called ‘Working Minds‘ designed to provoke “….a culture change across Britain’s workplaces where recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine as managing workplace safety.”

“Work-related stress is now the number one cause of employee sickness absence, with major factors causing work-related stress including workload pressures – tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. Our insight also tells us that employers, particularly smaller ones, are not aware of their legal duties or how to spot the signs of stress.”

It is widely understood that this issue has become more apparent since the start of the CoViD pandemic, but even prior to that, mental health was cited as the single largest reason for sick days being taken in the UK.

There is a range of campaigns, not all of which are stress-related on the site. The specific stress one is here though.

(Thanks to Doug McGill for the tip)

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Fire and Rehire – ACAS put down a few pointers

In 2020, a few VFX facilities threatened to ‘fire and rehire‘ to force members to accept lower terms. It’s a big issue in the wider trades union movement too. It’s an unpopular practice, and the government recently scuppered a bill that would have outlawed the practice.

However, Bectu’s law firm Thompsons are pointing to ACAS guidance that highlights all of the hazards to employers associated with this – especially when it is done to drive down terms and conditions.

All worth a read if you have the time… (thanks to Adam Flanders for the tip here…)

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Why ‘the freelance deal’ is a big deal – and not just for the workers concerned.

There’s a long read on this site about the ‘contingent production army’ that manages large parts of the entertainment industry.

Thinking about this issue, and processing it has allowed me to get a clearer idea of what our grievances are – particularly with employment and tax law – when advancing the interests of our freelance members. Our colleagues in the wider trades union movement are – understandably – very concerned about ‘gig economy workers’ and – perhaps – less worried about ‘freelancers’ when thinking about ‘insecure workers’.

Freelancers are often, understandably, not treated as a priority given the very low incomes that are often implicit in the gig-economy world, but unions have always represented people who are working under unjust employment contracts while also not being in the lowest earnings quartile. Continue reading

Posted in Bullying and Harassment, Disability equality, Employment, Employment Law and Rights, Employment status, Equality, Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Gender equality, Gig economy workers, Health & Safety, IR35, Long hours, Management, Mental Health, National Insurance Contributions (NICs), Occupational Health, Personal Service Companies, Productivity, Race equality, Tax, Theatre and Live Events data | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark Milsome Foundation on the Rust incident

The Mark Milsome Foundation, which was founded following the death of Mark Milsome (a British cinematographer who was killed whilst filming a car stunt in Ghana 18th November 2017) has issued a statement (by email – I can’t find it on the foundation’s website) commenting on ‘ongoing negligence of film sets following the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins’.

I’m republishing part of the email here as a reminder of the survey that the foundation did among film grew in 2020. It produced the following statistics:

  • 62% of participants believe that current H&S regulations need improving 20% of participants don’t think they are adequate at all
  • 71% of participants say they would support and sign up to an MMF online course voluntarily with the figure rising a further 23% IF it became a mandatory requirement
  • 85% of participants believe there are issues related to stress and mental health in the industry which are not addressed
  • Working hours, sleep deprivation, and driving tired are the main H&S causes of concern in the industry.
  • 83% of participants say that working hours and sleep deprivation are most likely to blame for poor H&S standards
  • 80% of participants also voted to say that budget restrictions could be to blame for poor Health & Safety standards

For more information on MMF  and to see the full survey and comments.

Posted in Film & TV industry data, Health & Safety, Long hours, Safe working practices, Safe working standards | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

You need a 7.1% pay-rise to stand still.

In the light of today’s news about cost-of-living increases

The IFS are saying…. Continue reading

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How can unions choose which tech tools will work for them?

A useful report for the TUC’s digital lab from Sam Jeffers (of The Shop) – a roundup of tech tools that unions can use for….

  • Recruitment (Finding workers and getting first contact with them)
  • Engagement (Building members’ connection to the union)
  • Mobilisation (Helping members to take action)
  • Collaboration (Helping members work together)
  • Community (Networking members together and building leadership)
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Makeup Department Memes

The latest glorious Instagram account to give an insight into production livelihoods is Makeup Department Memes.

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3rd December – International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Thursday 3 December is the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).

Introduced in 1992, the IDPD aims to promote the rights and well-being of disabled people across society. In what has been one of the most challenging years of recent times, this year’s theme is ‘Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World.’

The Inclusive Employers website has some interesting reflections on the disproportionate impact that the CoViD19 pandemic has had upon the wellbeing of workers who have disabilities. Continue reading

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BEIS consultation on flexible working

The BEIS is currently consulting on flexible working – “Making Flexible Working the Default” – here [pdf].

“This consultation includes a set of proposals which are built around the principle that working arrangements are best decided through a constructive, open-minded discussion between employer and employee. Whilst certain ways of working may suit some employers and employees, they won’t suit all – and therefore it is important that Government does not prescribe specific arrangements in legislation but rather provides an enabling framework within which such conversations can take place openly and fairly.”

Continue reading

Posted in Employment Contracts, Gender equality, Gender representation, Health & Safety, Long hours, Productivity, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, Wellbeing, Work-life balance | Tagged | Leave a comment