Looking to 2022

1 January 2022

In her first blog of 2022, Philippa Childs looks at what the new year means for Bectu

Reflecting on 2021, a year which has been full of both challenges and promise, I am immensely proud of our members who, after enduring such hardship with little government support, returned to work and provided us with enriching creative content. The creative industries play a huge role in rebuilding our society and economy post-pandemic, and the reopening of venues, theatres, and live events provided much needed hope for many. Thank you for your hard work throughout the year, and thank you to all of our members working over the Christmas period.  

Sadly, the creative industries continue to endure huge difficulties in the face of a new Covid crisis. The end of 2021 has seen the emergence of the Omicron variant and the subsequent tightening of restrictions has led to many theatres and live events venues shutting down, and our members being laid off and losing work as a result.  We have written to the Culture Secretary asking for an emergency support package that includes sector specific support for the industry.  

While we welcome last week’s announcement of funding via Arts Council England for freelancers affected by the pandemic, we continue our calls for a sector specific support package that includes both theatre and live events staff. Sector specific furlough is vital for employees who have lost work, and sector specific grants are needed for the thousands of freelancers and self-employed who found themselves falling through the gaps in government support earlier in the pandemic.  

We urge the government to answer our calls and ensure that creative workers will not be the last to receive government assistance.  

In 2021, Bectu ran a multitude of long term campaigns that will be continuing into 2022, toin support of the rebuilding of the creative industries. These include:  

Anti-privatisation of Channel 4  
Since the announcement from DCMS on the consultation of Channel 4’s ownership, Bectu have been actively engaged in an anti-privatisation campaign. Bectu remains deeply concerned that the proposed sale of Channel 4 would fundamentally damage the sector. With the creative industries amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic, there is no worse time to introduce such uncertainty, particularly for independent producers. 

In November, we hosted a virtual panel discussion about what the privatisation of Channel 4 would mean for the public service broadcast landscape. Speakers included Colin Browne from the Voice of the Viewer and Listener, and Claire Enders from Enders Analysis. The discussion covered a wide range of topics, including the recent House of Lords report from the Communications and Digital Committee, the BBC licence fee settlement and the 2022 Media Bill. You can watch the webinar here.  

You read our full response to the government’s consultation on the ownership of Channel 4 here.  

Tackling bullying and harassment in film and TV  
Bullying and harassment remains a widespread problem in the creative industries, particularly in the film and TV sector. Since the allegations of sexual harassment and bullying were levelled against Noel Clarke, many creatives have come forward with their own stories. We shared the stories of our members through the #UnseenOnScreen campaign, which shared personal testimonials that revealed extensive bullying and harassment in film and TV.  

In response to this, we recently launched 6 Demands, calling on production industries, broadcasters and studios to take action to prevent and address all forms of harassment and bullying. We believe that if our six demands are met, the film and TV industry could establish a long-lasting culture that has zero tolerance towards bullying and harassment of any kind. Read our 6 demands here. 

BBC campaign 
Bectu is the largest union in the BBC, with our membership covering 80% of roles in the organisation. In recent years, the BBC has faced increasingly sustained attacks from the government, including questions about its impartiality, licence fee settlement and public ownership. We remain dedicated in campaigning for such a well-regarded organisation and beacon of British culture, that provides consistent entertainment and education for its viewers.  

Earlier this year, we launched our Fit4Purpose campaign, aimed at improving working conditions in theatres. The shutdown of theatres throughout lockdown allowed workers the time and space necessary to evaluate how the long hours culture associated with the creative sector, and poor terms and conditions were affecting their day to day lives. After six months of consultation, Bectu members have made it clear that employers need to alter the nature of the theatre industry in order to safeguard its future. Read more about the campaign here. 

Race to be heard 
Last year, we published the Race to be Heard report, researched and written by Marcus Ryder. It called on industry stakeholders, entertainment unions and broadcasters to form a new independent reporting body to tackle racism in the broadcasting industry. The report was welcomed by the industry, but we are yet to see the formation of a body. Therefore, we have relaunched in the new year we will relaunch the campaign and will be doubling our efforts to make broadcasters and industry leaders answer our calls.  

In 2022, we will be continuing to prioritise these campaigns in our efforts to support our members in all sectors of the creative industries.  

2022 may bring uncertainty for the industry, but I am certain that our members will continue to work together to rebuild the sector and enrich our lives with creativity. I want to say a huge thank you for your resilience and hope throughout a time of such hardship, and I hope that 2022 brings relief and promise for the creative industries.