UK TV & Film Industry “Failing Employees” In Its Approach To Tackling Sexual Harassment, Says Report

The UK’s film and TV industry is “failing employees” in its approach to tackling sexual harassment six years on from #MeToo, according to a first-of-its-kind study.

The Safe to Speak Up? report interviewed 18 people who described in detail 22 instances of sexual harassment, assault or violence experienced at work since December 2017, including sexualised comments, having unsolicited sexual images shared with them, unwanted sexual approaches, indecent exposure and sexual assault.

The University of York research found that abuse is still occuring, as interviewees detailed a range of damaging impacts associated with their experiences, including feelings of shame and self-doubt, panic attacks and the loss of career opportunities and confidence. Most of the incidents described were recent, occurring since 2020, with six happening over the past year.

“Six years on from #MeToo, it is clear that the current approach is still failing employees, especially women,” the report concluded. “As such, new regulatory mechanisms need to be devised and implemented.”

Some interviewees described being encouraged to speak out about harassment and abuse, but then being punished or victimized when they did so. Four interviewees said they spoke to the harasser directly and asked them to stop the behavior or explained why the behaviour was problematic, but none of these efforts were effective in getting the harassment to stop or getting the person to understand.

Employers’ handling of complaints was placed firmly in the spotlight by the report, which can be read in full here. Many interviewees were not aware of initiatives to tackle sexual harassment in their workplace and reported a strong reliance by employers on informal responses to complaints, which were not adequate to address the situation and sometimes resulted in further discrimination. “I look back and I realise that the informal phone call to [my bosses to raise concerns] was a mistake because they turned around to me and said, “Oh look, it would be very bruising if you raised this formally,” said one interviewee.

Anna Bull, who penned the report, recommended more regulatory oversight for broadcasters and commissioning channels to incentivize them to take more responsibility for sexual harassment on productions that they have commissioned. Her report comes with CIISA, the independent body set up to police bullying and harassment complaints in UK TV and film, set to go live in the coming months.

Bull said the research has “uncovered evidence of some of the worst – but also the best – responses from employers that I’ve ever seen.”

“This range of responses shows that while there is good work happening in some parts of the industry, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she added. “My hope is that this research – and the industry and policy briefings that accompany it – will contribute to making the screen industries safer and more equal places for everyone.”