You may already be aware that OFCOM, the regulator for our industry, reviewed its guidance with respect to regional programme making in the UK last year. This guidance was published on 19th June 2019, but is only just coming into effect now. Whilst we'd all hope that this guidance would seek to provide equal opportunities in television throughout the country regardless of where you live, its mechanism seems to be rather ill conceived and is affecting a significant proportion of experienced television professionals in an alarming way.
The previous iteration of the guidance, which will have been relevant to most of our membership at some time or another, sought to provide incentives for production companies to make a proportion of their shows in locations outside Greater London - which is something we can all appreciate is extremely important, in order to make sure those of us who do not wish to live in London are provided with a similar number of opportunities as those of us who do. This approach provided opportunities in the area local to the production, leading to the formation of a local skill-base over time, which would seem the appropriate way to administer the situation. However, this latest version of the guidance goes somewhat further than this, and is now being enforced with spot-checks, which can result in serious penalties for the programme makers if they're found to be outside its requirements.
The STLD's specific concern with the recent guidance is that it stipulates that, in all areas of "off-screen talent", 50% of roles must be filled by crew living outside the M25 in addition to the other requirements; and the way in which this guidance is being applied. Within the last week, several members of a long-running show have been informed that, due to their home address, they won't be employed by the show again - despite having worked on it since its pilot show over four years ago. To make matters worse, this production is now classed as being made "regionally" by basing itself at Pinewood Studios - which is 560m from the M25. This is similar to suggesting that freelancers whose home addresses are in Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow are no longer able to work at the NEC, MediaCity or Pacific Quay. Registered business addresses / accountancy addresses are not taken into account - your permanent place of residence as an individual is what matters.
We would like to invite you to join us in what will be the first steps to making this guidance fairer for everyone in the long run, whilst keeping the emphasis on TV production growth outside Greater London by signing a petition, and by emailing key players who will be able to help us - your MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, as well as OFCOM itself. Contact details for all these are available below, along with a sample text for your letters. If you are a member of Facebook, there is also an action group you can join in order to keep up to date with developments, which is also listed below.
Please consider joining us in trying to improve this industry-wide guidance into something which will really help. Even if you consider that it may not affect you directly, it will likely impact on someone you know. Our regulator should exist to improve conditions for us all - let's be part of helping them to do that.
FACEBOOK GROUP (not administered by the STLD): https://www.facebook.com/groups/2651462601597622/
OFCOM contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DIGITAL, CULTURE, MEDIA & SPORT: email@example.com
FIND MY MP: https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons
SAMPLE TEXT FOR LETTER TO MP:
I am writing to you for advice and help on a matter relating to Ofcom’s new regional television production regulations, that have resulted paradoxically in a severe case of discrimination.
I am <insert job title here> based in your constituency of <location>. I have been working in this field for over <xx> years, travelling the UK and the world over, contributing to the long standing reputation of the UK as one of the world leaders in television production.
However, Ofcom now has a regulation that dictates that a high percentage of commissions must be produced outside of the M25, with a similar percentage quota of off-screen talent, in other words production staff, who must also come from the regions. As a result of Ofcom's regulations I am no longer permitted to work on many television productions simply because I live within the M25. This is postcode discrimination. On the other hand anyone living outside of the M25 is allowed to work anywhere they choose to, including within the M25. This is clear inequality and discrimination.
In essence this means that production companies that have previously hired me as an individual based on my hard-earned reputation, experience and commitment to the production are now prevented from employing me simply because of where I live. It is beginning to threaten my livelihood. One potential option is for me to leave the area I call home and uproot my family at considerable expense and anguish, just so that I can comply with the guidelines.
I trust I can rely on you to please help me to look into this absurd by-product of a policy that was introduced with the intention of promoting inclusion and diversity, but is fundamentally flawed and now excludes some of the industry’s finest contributors who pay a premium to live in the capital of our country, only to find themselves being discriminated against.
Thank you for your time.