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New report says the creative industries are a hotspot for bullying
Creating Without Conflict report author Cathy John (right) with Anne Marie Quigg
The worlds of the media, arts and entertainments are often seen as glamorous, but a survey of 4,000 workers has revealed these industries are hotspots of bullying, with more than half of those questioned (56%) saying they had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work.
People who contributed to a survey, commissioned by the Federation of Entertainment Unions, ranged from household names, top screenwriters and performers to those at the beginning of their careers.
The results showed shocking levels of ill-treatment and inappropriate behaviour and a culture of silence, with only a third of those suffering bullying and harassment reporting the incidents.
Eight out of 10 women (81%) who reported bullying, harassment and discrimination said their gender was a factor. The respondents reported incidents from lewd comments to sexual assault and commented on pressure from superiors to enter sexual relationships and unnecessary scripted nudity. Women said they had to develop strategies to avoid sexual harassment as their career progressed, but then found they were discriminated against because of age and were viewed as beyond their shelf-life. One in ten respondents in theatre, television and film witnessed sexually-related harassment.
There is great competition to get in and get on in the theatre, TV, an orchestra or a newspaper, but the reality is most workers are freelance or work on short-term contracts and have few statutory rights. They fear there is always someone else hungry to take their place if they complain. The survey showed that there was almost an acceptance of the prevailing culture of bullying; an attitude of 'if you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen'. One respondent said you were expected to put up with it 'to earn your stripes and anything else was seen as a weakness'.
Bullying and harassment was recorded at all types of workplaces, including publicly-funded national arts, music and media institutions in the UK and Ireland. For some, getting the job of their dreams became a nightmare because of the way they were treated by managers and colleagues. Managers were the main perpetrators, however, half the respondents identified co-workers and colleagues as offenders.
One common feature reported was that excuses were made for the 'talent' – individuals, in front of and behind the camera, front stage and back stage, who believe they are 'untouchable' because of their status.
The survey showed that where bullying was reported, being a member of a union was more likely to lead to a successful outcome.
'When you have institutional imbalance - the vast majority of writers are freelance, and the vast majority of producers and script editors who hire them are salaried, with greater job security - what do you do? Discrimination is built into the power balance.' Screenwriter
'It's a small industry - a "bad reputation" (if you dare to stand up for yourself) will stay with you from company to company (and will cost you work).' Post-production worker, film
'There is an old-fashioned macho culture in which bullying is seen as almost an honour.' Journalist
The report led to the following recommendations:
- Better training should be provided for workers and management in dealing with unreasonable behaviour.
- Clear guidance is provided for freelances by employers.
- Union recognition in workplaces so that reps can negotiate anti-bullying policies and represent victims.
- Confidential hotlines for freelance and employed workers.
Creating Without Conflict Organisers: Ellie Peers (WGGB), Frances Rafferty (NUJ), Louise Grainger (Equity), Luke Crawley (BETCU) and Bindu Patel (MU)
The Federation of Entertainment Unions represents workers in TV, theatre, film, music, gaming, cinema, publishing, newspapers, new media, professional football and other performing arts. The FEU comprises BECTU, Equity, The Musicians' Union, the NUJ, the Professional Footballers' Association, Unite and The Writers' Guild of Great Britain.