BFI and BAFTA clamp down on bullying and harassment across TV and Film

A group of about forty UK film and TV organisations, led by the BFI and BAFTA, have launched a new set of guidelines aimed at protecting people working in the industry from bullying and harassment.

Rebecca O'Brien has been producing Ken Loach's films for nearly 30 years
Ken Loach’s regular producer Rebecca O’Brien is among the leading women in the industry to be backing the new guidance.

The document is backed by actors including Emma Watson, Gemma Arterton and Jodie Whittaker and producers such as Bond’s Barbara Broccoli and Ken Loach’s Rebecca O’Brien.

BBC Films, the entertainment union BECTU, the producers’ body PACT and the public arts funding agencies Creative England and Creative Scotland are among the organisations that have already signed up to the guidance, introduced in response to allegations of bullying and harassment that have surfaced since Hollywood was shaken by the claims against the powerful producer Harvey Weinstein.

Under what’s been described as the “zero tolerance” guidance, bosses working in the industry are being asked to make the workplace inclusive and supportive and recognise that harassment can be unlawful. They’re also being urged to ensure that processes are in place for the reporting and investigation of any allegations; each production will be expected to have two newly trained people – a man and a woman – available for anyone who needs to discuss their concerns, either on-or off-set. To aid confidentiality, a national telephone hot-line will be made available for anyone who wants to report abusive behaviour.

The guidance will be enforced by the BFI restricting public funding to productions that sign up to the guidelines and BAFTA’s Film Awards in the categories recognising British talent will be available only to productions that have operated under the advice. Similar restrictions on public funding and awards recognition have been used by both the BFI and BAFTA to ensure gender, racial and social diversity within the industry and the new guidance is being incorporated into those Diversity Standards.

Emma Watson is one of the stars backing the new anti-harassment guidelines. Photo courtesy: BFI

While in some senses, the guidance does not seem particularly onerous – it doesn’t seem to be unduly restrictive for companies to be obliged to recognise that harassment could be unlawful, for example – there has been a widespread welcome for the focus that this document is putting on the issue. The Harry Potter actress Emma Watson said she was shocked that until now, there has been no formal process by which abusive behaviour could be reported. “I hope these Principles become second nature for everyone; they are not just about protecting individuals but are also an important step in embracing a greater diversity of voices – and eventually having an entertainment industry that actually represents the world we live in.”

The Minister for the Creative Industries, Margot James, welcomed the guidance as “an important first step to ensure change,” saying “Everyone has the right to feel safe at work and people can only thrive when they operate in a respectful and tolerant environment so that they can make the most of their creative talents.”

The Chief Executive Officer of the BFI, Amanda Nevill, said the collective determination of the industry to create a better working environment had been extraordinary. “This clear and simple guidance is for all, and in also becoming part of our Diversity Standards – which we strongly encourage all sections of the industry to adopt – it is an important step in becoming the industry I believe we all truly aspire to be: inclusive, fair, open and offering opportunity equally to everyone.”

BAFTA’s Chief Executive Amanda Berry said the new principles and guidance were the result of a monumental cross-industry effort, in the face of some difficult truths. “We believe that everyone has the right to work in a safe professional environment,” she stressed. “It is essential that there is a shared understanding of respectful, inclusive working practices that enable everyone to succeed.”

It is, perhaps, notable that everybody involved in the launch of the new guidelines is female; from the stars who’ve put their names to the document – Emma Watson, Gemma Arterton, Jodie Whittaker and Gemma Gemma Chan – to the producers – Barbara Broccoli, Rebecca O’Brien and Alison Owen – to the heads of the BFI (Amanda Nevill) and BAFTA (Amanda Berry), the Creative Industries Minister (Margot James), Caroline Waters from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the boss of the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund, Alex Pumfrey. It’s impossible to make any judgements about the absence of men being linked to the initiative, but it raises questions as to whether those behind it believe that only women can understand what it’s like to be harassed and bullied or perhaps they fear that it would be toxic to link men to the guidelines. Could it be a sign that men are simply not engaging with the problem? Or perhaps no man is willing to put his name to the initiative, in the fear that it could invite accusations against them. Another alternative could be the innocent coincidence that in an industry largely overseen by women, the question of where the power lies is perhaps less clear than some of the headlines might suggest.