Financial help for TV freelancers

It’s the hot topic of the moment in the freelance TV world. Here’s where we are, as it stands on Tuesday evening (24th March):

An open letter has gone out to the management of UK TV broadcasters, and one to the Treasury subcommittee, appealing for help for freelancers who have spent their working lives creating Britain’s best loved (and quite liked) TV shows.

“Work has entirely dried up for the tens of thousands of people who have loyally supported [broadcasters] for years…many can’t survive and will have to leave the industry.”

That plea was picked up by Broadcast magazine in their article: Freelancers: help us survive.

“If broadcasters want a workforce when they do get underway again, then they need to figure out a way of allowing them to survive,”

At which point Netflix dug its warmly welcomed hand into its big pockets and plucked out one million pounds to provide emergency short-term relief to freelancers who have been directly impacted by the closure of productions across the UK. You can ask about applying for some of that cash here.

So now it’s over to the BBC and ITV – will they step up?

Updates (hopefully with the good news that they have) here…

Update: another letter has gone out today (25th March) too. No response yet.

Look what Netflix are doing for our industry…

From Broadcast magazine:

Industry charities establish TV emergency fund
By Michael Rosser
24 March 2020

Netflix ploughs £1m into BFI/Film and TV Charity fund for individuals impacted by production closures

The BFI and The Film and TV Charity have partnered to create the Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund in a bid to help support the creative community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Established with a £1m donation from streaming giant Netflix, the fund will aim to provide emergency short-term relief to active workers and freelancers who have been directly impacted by the closure of productions across the UK.

The Film and TV Charity, which is working on the precise eligibility criteria and level of individual funding, will administer the fund with support from the BFI.

It will be open to all those working in production, distribution and exhibition, and applicants are being asked to register at

The charity urged those in immediate and urgent to apply for support via its existing hardship fund, which offers grants of up to £500 to provide stop-gap support. The hardship fund will sit alongside the new Covid-19 relief.

Details on eligibility and how to apply can be found here

The two organisations have also recognised the significant mental health pressures arising as a result of the coronavirus crisis and are developing new advice specifically tailored for the film and TV industries on how to stay mentally well at home.

Conducted in line with the charity’s existing Whole Picture Programme for better mental health, it will also create a new supportive community forum for freelancers.

The BFI is also leading an industry wide Screen Sector Task Force that is looking at the wide-ranging impactsof Covid-19 on the whole industry and its workforce, as well as working closely with the UK government to ensure that all of the ramifications and impacts are considered.

Netflix’s donation follows last week’s establishment of a $100m fund for creatives whose jobs have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Most of the funds will go towards support for the hardest hit workers on Netflix’s own productions around the world and is in addition to the two weeks’ pay the streemer had already committed to the crew and cast on suspended productions.

Film and TV charity chief executive Alex Pumfrey said: “The film and TV industry is now facing a huge threat. Many freelancers have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight. We’re entering a period of unprecedented isolation and worry for a workforce that we know from our research already suffers from poor mental health.”

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts said: ‘‘Freelance professionals are the backbone of our film and television industries, and we hope that everyone will work together to support those who have been hardest hit at this extraordinary time of need.”

He added further commercial industry partners were being asked to contribute, where able, and “play their part in helping those most in need get through this crisis”.

Netflix vice president, original series Anne Mensah added: “From electricians to carpenters, hair and makeup artists to drivers – and many more, UK crews have always been vital to Netflix’s success and now we want to help those freelancers who most need support in these unprecedented times.”

Come on ITV and BBC – you can do something like this too!

OPEN LETTER to the Boards of Management of UK TV broadcasters.

21 March 2020
Adrian Pegg, on behalf of the Facebook employment and support group ‘People Who Are Available For Work In TV’

Dear Sir / Madam,

In the late 1980s and 90s our industry changed. It moved from a secure staff workforce to a largely self-employed and freelance workforce. Since then all UK Broadcasters have benefited from reduced overheads, and no direct liabilities for sick pay, redundancy, maternity/paternity leave and so on. The workforce has responded by working flexibly and as required for the Independent Production Companies that sprang up to take your commissions.

In the last few weeks Broadcasters have cancelled commissions, Indies have ceased all production and laid off almost all of their freelancers. Work has consequently entirely dried up for the tens of thousands of people who have loyally supported you for years.

It has become apparent that while the government is rightly supporting employees and businesses with staff (including yours), freelancers have no-one to guarantee their income and at present will only have access to a pittance. Many can’t survive and will have to leave the industry. There are freelancers who are PAYE but can’t access the 80% guarantee because they have no single employer.

When you restart commissioning you will need a workforce to be ready and waiting. So how are you planning to support the hard working professionals who make the programmes you will once again rely on?

Yours faithfully,

Adrian Pegg,
Line Producer