Policymakers have repeatedly raised concerns about the TV’s ‘social mobility problem’, citing the precarious nature of freelance work, the preponderance of internships and unpaid work, and the use of informal recruitment practices, as all contributing to the rise of a disproportionately privileged workforce. Moreover, the new minister for Digital and Culture and Creative Industries, Matt Hancock, has made it clear that he will be pushing hard to increase social mobility in the sector.
Yet the reality is that we actually know very little about social mobility in UK television. There is little reliable data on the subject, no agreed approach to measuring or monitoring social mobility among employers, and existing interventions are generally small-scale.
This case study therefore aims to provide a really robust analysis of how class background structures a person’s ability to get in, and get on, in UK television. The case study is situated at one of Britain’s national television broadcasters.
The fieldwork took place in two stages. First, a short anonymous questionnaire was sent to all staff at the broadcaster in October 2016. This achieved an encouraging response rate of 76%. In order to benchmark this data against the wider TV sector, an identical follow-up questionnaire was then circulated to those working at independent television production companies (Indies). This was achieved via circulation to 1800 members of the Producers Alliance of Cinema and Television (PACT), the trade association representing the commercial interests of UK independent television companies. This achieved a response rate of 75% (1373 responses). The second part of the project involved 50 in-depth interviews with staff at the broadcaster in different departments, with different levels of seniority, and from different class backgrounds.
Results from this case study have been fed back to the broadcaster and a strategy is now being formulated to tackle social mobility. This strategy, as well as headline results from the research, will be published publically in September 2017.