Survey finds half of respondents considering leaving industry

The long-term impact of Covid-19 on TV’s freelance workforce is beginning to emerge as one survey finds more than half could leave the industry if opportunities continue to stagnate.

The poll of almost 1,000 exec producers, APs, runners and others found just more than 50% will seek work in an industry that “offers more stability” if jobs remain thin on the ground until June, which appears likely.

Some 8% said they plan to hunt for a different job within TV, potentially taking themselves out of programme-making roles into job functions with more security.

Although government guidelines were updated this week, at the time of publication of the survey nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were ineligible for government support and fearing for their future careers.

Fewer than one-in-five (17%) are currently working due to the lockdown’s impact, with hardly any prospects expected to emerge in the coming weeks.

The qualitative section of the research from the Viva La PD Facebook group – a collective of predominantly producers and directors formed three years ago – provided the sense that a huge proportion of the overall TV workforce feel left behind.

They have previously been told by the government and the industry that jumping from job-to-job is necessary in order to get ahead but the crisis has exposed how rapidly such a working culture can unravel.

“Many think they have been overlooked and forgotten by an industry that relies heavily on a freelance workforce,” summarised the report.

“There are real fears for some people about whether they will be able to still work in TV after all of this ends. They’ve spent time building a career, but this may mean they have to look for more secure work elsewhere.”

Depressing picture

Other issues raised include concerns from those attempting to return to work following maternity leave, along with fears of a talent bunfight once the restrictions are lifted.

“The market will be flooded with a workforce all fighting over a limited number of jobs,” it added.

Growing anxiety levels were identified as a key driver for pushing people into seeking work in more secure industries.

“These people have extremely worrying stress levels about the future and how they are going to support themselves and their families. Childcare bills and rents are still being paid, but the vast majority have zero income coming in.”

Some of the anonymous responses to the survey paint a highly depressing picture.

One said they are “suffering from depression, facing economic ruin and thinking about suicide” while many indicated their time spent working in TV has already come to an end.

“This really has highlighted all of the flaws in our industry and, right now, it isn’t an industry I want to be any part of,” said one. “I’m looking at retraining and going down a different career path to ensue me and those I love are supported and healthy.”

Viva La PD’s key recommendations include urging the government to ensure there is parity between support for self-employed workers and full-time staff, allowing people who earn multiple sources/types of income to gain access to support and extending the furlough scheme to cover for more people.

HMRC made a number of updates to its Job Retention Scheme guidelines this week, which should help more freelancers, but irrespective of its approach there is a growing sense that this section of the workforce could shrink significantly this year.