The technical issues

Your work is enjoyed across the globe and the ability for people to access entertainment is ever increasing. New streaming platforms from Apple and Disney have arrived and the BBC and ITV have recently teamed up on Britbox, which launched in November.

Media commentators are excited about this new digital landscape and are already speculating on who the winners and losers will be. As you would expect, Equity has been working hard to ensure that our members are the winners and that you remain protected and paid for your work as these technologies evolve. We do this in many ways, through our collective agreements such as the first-ever union agreement that we struck with Netflix earlier this year, and through working with our sister unions across the globe.

In November, John Barclay, Equity’s head of recorded media, and myself attended meetings of the International Federation of Actors (FIA) in Vancouver. FIA is a global federation of performers’ trade unions and professional associations. It represents thousands of performers in more than 60 countries around the world. John presented the report from the international production working group discussing Global Framework Agreements. The Indian union CINTAA expressed their frustration at getting employers engaged with their agreements and asked for support. As a consequence, Equity’s Council has agreed to send an Equity delegation to visit CINTAA next year.

A further example of the importance of solidarity on a global scale is dealing with the proliferation of streaming services. A criticism that is emerging from performers in many countries is the use of exclusivity on those platforms. This is where performers are tied into lengthy deals and are prevented from working elsewhere, particularly on rival platforms. Alongside our own efforts to counter this, we will need international solidarity from our FIA colleagues if we are to successfully overcome this problem.

Another worrying issue on the horizon is the use of ‘deep fake’ video and audio. This is where a performer’s work is digitally manipulated to create work that they never consented to. Our sister union SAG-AFTRA visited Equity in November to present their thinking on how to deal with this issue and it is something that will be factored in to our next round of negotiations.

Further news from the Recorded Media department concerns Equity’s Distribution Service, which ensures that performers engaged on Equity contracts receive royalties and other secondary payments arising from the terms of the union’s collective agreements. In this year alone, more than 15,000 performers have received payments totalling in excess of £20m.

I will be retiring in October next year and you may have noticed an advertisement for the post of General Secretary. I will remain fully in charge until that time, alongside the union’s dedicated Officers, Council and staff. I have worked at Equity for just over 40 years, holding posts such as Commercials Organiser, Assistant General Secretary to the Recorded Media and the Live Performance departments and secretary to several committees. I am very proud of the strong, independent trade union that we are today. But now is not the time to reflect on my time at Equity – there is still plenty to do!

On page 22 we have set out our vision for what we believe the UK’s arts and culture landscape should be. We have been calling on all political parties to protect and promote the creative sectors and the workers in our industries, particularly in the context of Brexit. Please raise our asks where you can and most importantly vote. Very best wishes for the holiday season and the New Year. I look forward to meeting many of you at the Annual General Meetings next year.