Broadcasting union Bectu has warned of a crisis in the unscripted television sector amid reports that large numbers of TV professionals are facing unprecedented gaps in employment.

The union says that 2023 has been unusually quiet for freelancers in the unscripted genres. Many have reported being without any form of work since January or earlier.

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Bectu has suggested a crisis in the unscripted TV sector

Many broadcasters are understood to have slowed down commissioning this year amid a slowdown in the advertising market. This comes as the UK economy struggles with high inflation and a cost of living crisis.

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With many freelancers having already left or considering leaving the industry, Bectu said it is very concerned that there may not be a sufficient workforce to meet demand when production returns to more normal levels. Freelancers are telling the union that they urgently want to see productions green lit and budgets signed off so they can get back to work.

Bectu urged industry stakeholders, including broadcasters, streamers and production companies, to come together to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “We are deeply concerned at increasing reports of unscripted freelancers struggling to find work, with many telling us this is the longest period without work that they have ever experienced.

“The ‘feast or famine’ nature of the industry – whereby there may be an overabundance of work one minute, and none the next – is an incredibly challenging environment to work in and we urge the industry to come together not just to address the current crisis, but to commit to long-term change. Broadcasters must better communicate with freelancers and give them a seat at the table to find solutions to a system that places all the risks of employment and unemployment on the individual workers.”

The union represents freelancers working in unscripted television genres such as factual entertainment, entertainment, documentary, non-scripted comedy, news and current affairs, sports, children, reality, music and live and natural history.

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