Creative UK and UK Time’s Up in consultation with creative industries for an Independent Standards Authority to strengthen efforts to tackle bullying and harassment and drive greater accountability across the sector

Thursday 5th May 2022: In the Spring of 2021, singer/songwriter Rebecca Ferguson met with the DCMS to share her experience of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, whilst working in the music industry.  Five years on following the exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s toxic behaviour, bullying, harassment, and sexual discrimination continues to be an ongoing problem in the creative industries with stories of bullying, intimidation and abuse of power making headline news.

Since last year many questions were raised about the extent of ongoing harassment in the entertainment sector and what more could be done both to tackle these behaviours together with the need for greater support to the survivors. Now is the time for the creative industries to lead the way in combatting this on-going, bullying, harassment, and endless abuse of power.

Foundations for this work had been laid by the film and television sectors coming together in 2017 with the BFI and BAFTA alongside UK Time’s Up, to develop Guidance and Principles to tackle bullying and harassment which were launched the following year. These were then embraced and adapted by other sectors in the creative industries. To further this work, a cross-industry group with representation from the creative industries led by Caroline Norbury MBE from Creative UK was created to agree a plan of action. Representatives included the music, TV, film, theatre, advertising, video games, and fashion sectors.

“At our first meeting in June 2021, attendees agreed to ensure codes of practice were in place for each sub sector;existing support and signposting was improved and simplified;”; says Caroline Norbury MBE, Chief Executive, Creative UK, “and valuable commitments were made regarding the development of training and standards to ensure culture change was accelerated. However, we have also heard concerns that there are gaps in support and areas for improvement, such as improving the visibility of existing support, difficulties around monitoring the effectiveness of support and the need for ongoing training.”

UK Time’s Up, a charity committed to the eradication of bullying and harassment in the creative sector, proposed the idea for an Independent Standards Authority, developed in collaboration with legal law firm Fieldfisher and its partners Jill Greenfield and Sarah Ellson, to respond to these specific concerns. One of the most challenging gaps being the protection of freelancers, the self-employed and those on short term and informal contracts.

“This is a historic moment for the Film and Television industry to create a new body which will provide a just process for complainants and for those accused, to drive accountability and integrity. The ISA is a crucial development in the fight to eradicate unacceptable behaviour and support safe, respectful and dignified working conditions for all. We are all aware that whilst there are helplines and advice, which  are of course, crucially important, fear and suspicion remain and, in a sector dominated by freelancers with little or zero employment protection, and access to work being based on formal and informal networks, many continue to suffer in silence”, says Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair, UK Time’s Up.

“Specifically, where the complaint is historic in nature, where it relates to conduct outside work, or if there are multiple complaints, there is currently no process. Only by creating a body which stands fully independent, with processes and investigations informed by legal standards of confidentiality, can there be confidence and trust, and more broadly, for the integrity of the industry to be assured.”

 The DCMS Secretary of State, Nadine Dorries, attended an industry roundtable in January 2022 to make clear the importance of industry’s work to tackle these issues and its role in ensuring the welfare of all those who work in the creative industries; 

No one should experience bullying or harassment – no matter what industry they’re in.  

I feel strongly that it is for the creative industries to ensure the welfare of those working in them.  I encourage industry to improve welfare standards and fully address unacceptable behaviour and practices.

I welcome the steps already taken by industry to improve standards, but I want to see more. I want there to be a safe and welcoming environment for everyone who wants to work in film, TV, music, and the wider creative sectors – no matter who they are, or where they’re from.”

The proposal for the Independent Standards Authority will bring together expertise and advice and, crucially, will have the ability to investigate and drive accountability. Currently, where an individual has suffered harassment after a production has concluded, they have limited or unclear places to report, and the person complained against has no due process, leaving only media exposure which can result in cancellation of shows and the loss of work for so many with neither the survivor nor the “alleged offender” being afforded a just hearing.

As well as conducting investigations, the Independent Standards Authority will also offer mediation services as many survivors do not want a formal investigation. It will also be able to offer insight and good practice from the learning that derives as well as identify gaps in provision.

The Independent Standards Authority is being developed in close collaboration with colleagues at The Hollywood Commission, which was created in 2017 to stop discrimination, harassment, and abuse in entertainment. The Hollywood Commission is developing its own standards authority which closely parallels the UK Independent Standards Authority proposal cognisant that as a global industry, these issues need to be tackled together. Many of the stakeholders in the Independent Standards Authority will have HQs in the US so the two bodies being able to learn together, develop future best practice and identify gaps, will be crucial.

For practical reasons, during the first phase of establishing the independent standards authority the remit will initially cover film and TV, with the wider creative industries joining subsequently.

Rebecca Ferguson says, “There is an opportunity to change the way creatives are treated in our country, by supporting this you are making history.

The ISA is a monumental step that will support future creatives, which could include your children, grandchildren or family members. By supporting the ISA you are making our industry safer and impacting peoples’ lives in a very positive way. Every industry deserves good practice and standards so that we can all work together harmoniously. Nobody deserves to go to work in fear. Thank you” 

Keira Knightley OBE says, For anyone to fulfil their creative potential there cannot be fear or disrespect or any kind. We are all entitled to work in safe, respectful spaces where dignity for all is upheld. I believe the ISA is a important step in helping to achieve this.