Production industry must think differently says BBC Studioworks culture director

Change is desperately needed to deal with challenges facing freelancers

By 22 Sep 2023

Production industry must think differently says BBC Studioworks culture director
Broadcast's Chris Curtis, BBC Studioworks' Katie Leveson, Screen Scotland's Steven Little (L to R)

The industry needs to think differently about careers if it wants to retain skilled workers in the long term, BBC Studioworks culture and transformation director Katie Leveson has said.

Speaking at the Broadcast Live: Glasgow event, Leveson called on the industry in Scotland and beyond to come together to find ways of ensuring that workers are able to find jobs all year round.

The event, held at BBC Studioworks Kelvin Hall facility in Glasgow, offered indies in the area the opportunity to hear from London-based commissioners about their strategies and network with their peers.

Leveson appeared on a panel alongside Steven Little, head of production at Screen Scotland discussing the shape of the Scottish workforce and the current situation for freelancers.

Leveson pointed to data released by the union Bectu earlier this month which revealed that three quarters of film and TV workers are currently out of work, describing it as “a real worry”, adding that change was “desperately needed”.

She said: “That’s people not earning money, that’s people not able to pay their mortgages, and it is acutely felt right now – but it’s the nature of the industry we’re in.

“That means we need to think differently about careers. We need to think about retention, not just within Scotland (although that is a key priority for us) but retention within the sector, within the industry.”

An important factor in retaining workers, she said, is ensuring that there are opportunities for them “to be employed all year round”, something which she said could be enabled by allowing people to diversify their skillsets and work across genres.

Little agreed that retention is “key” and argued for greater training opportunities, as well as a great willingness to take chances on people.

“Everyone in this room is here because someone took a chance on them,” he told the 150 attendees. “And the industry has gotten so much bigger in the last few years that we need to look further and to mainstream education and training in the industry.”

Leveson said the industry needed to think about how it can make work more flexible and enable a work/life balance.

“Why are we not doing that for the freelance community?” she said. “Why have we not figured out the solution to that problem? Even beyond the volume of work, we should really now be thinking as an industry ‘How do we move things on?’

“Because we’re quite far behind in terms of flexible working and being able to keep people in work, when maybe their life circumstances change.”

She said that the lack of HR options for freelancers also means that they have nowhere to turn when they have problems or felt they had been unfairly treated.

“This requires the industry or to think a couple of beats ahead,” she said. “It’s difficult, with time pressures and budgets, but we must open the doors for the people – for those who are trying to get in and those trying to get to that next level in their career.”

Other speakers at Broadcast Live: Glasgow included Neil Forsyth, the Scottish writer of dramas such as The Gold and Guilt, as well as a panel of unscripted commissioning editors including: Channel 5 commissioning editor Denise Seneviratne; Channel 4 commissioning editor for entertainment Genna Gibson; director of Sky Arts and head of entertainment at Sky Phil Edgar Jones; and BBC head of science Tom Coveney.

The commissioners explained what pitches they were currently seeking. For more information, visit their profiles on

Broadcast Live: Glasgow took place thanks to the support of its sponsors: STV Studios, Screen Scotland and BBC Studioworks. 

This story originally appeared on our sister site Broadcast and was written by Rebecca Cooney.

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