Entry level workers' disconnection from the collective memory of TV and film professionals in the UK: insight from survey data into experiences, attitudes and resistance to unpaid work

Percival, Neil (2016) Entry level workers' disconnection from the collective memory of TV and film professionals in the UK: insight from survey data into experiences, attitudes and resistance to unpaid work. In: ECREA European Communication Conference, 9-12 November 2016, Prague.

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The media industry was formerly one of the most heavily unionised sectors in the UK. With the shift from broadcaster-producers to independent production, the end of national collective bargaining in 1988, and the rapid growth of casualised freelance working, those entering or attempting to enter the film and TV industries now face an entirely different journey to many of their predecessors, although principles of collectivism still underpin the attitudes of more experienced workers. This paper draws on the conference theme by examining the disconnection of entry level workers in these creative sectors from the industry’s shared collective memory, and the discontinuity in attitudes towards employment conditions, unpaid work, and career development which this has brought about. The paper revisits findings from a 2011 survey carried out by the writer of 1100 workers in the UK film and TV sectors, which set out to measure ethical attitudes to unpaid work, and to explore correlations to factors such as production budget and age. While confirming that workers in the film industry are more prepared to accept unpaid labour than television workers, the survey also revealed that those with more experience in either sector view unpaid labour considerably less favourably than newcomers. The paper reflects on possible reasons for this; there are signs, especially among the survey comments of older workers, of a greater awareness of principles of collectivism, perhaps motivated by their own anxieties about being undercut by unpaid entrants, but also reflecting legacies of older histories of craft solidarity and altruistic desires for fairness within the sector. While generalised results from the survey have been published elsewhere, this paper also explores findings from a section of the survey that has not yet been disseminated: six questions designed to explore the existence of factors identified by mobilisation theory, as being necessary pre-requisites to, and drivers of, collective action. These questions asked respondents whether they thought unpaid work was a source of injustice, whether they felt their views were widely shared, whether those to blame could be identified, and whether they felt collective action could bring about change; it also asked whether they felt unionised or non-unionised action was more effective. Perhaps surprisingly, apart from the latter question, survey findings indicate a high overall presence of such mobilising factors, with very low variations in response regardless of age or production budget - suggesting that even a largely non-unionised body of young workers still appreciates the value and efficacy of collective action, however organised. The paper concludes by discussing one notably successful campaign against unpaid labour which was conducted in the UK television industry ten years ago. It explores how the organisers of this non-unionised campaign have since embraced social media as a tool for collective activism, and how their current activity has continuing impact on attitudes and practice in the sector in 2016 – demonstrating some of the mobilising factors identified by the survey, but using both unionised and non-unionised mechanisms tailored to a digital generation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: L300 Sociology
P300 Media studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Neil Percival
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2017 11:48
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 12:32
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/29374

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