19 February 2019
Next week Ofcom closes the last part of the consultation surrounding the guidance for public service broadcasters for productions made outside the M25 and how something meets the criteria for programmes made in the Regions and Nations. The current version of the guidance, which have been in operation since 2010, specifically excludes On-Screen Talent from counting towards the criterion for production budget spend. This was to ensure that the quotas remain focused on regionally-based production expertise rather than more mobile on-screen talent and, importantly, to avoid the quotas being skewed by the significant cost of onscreen talent in some productions (including, but not limited to, drama productions).This has been a major hurdle in persuading broadcasters to cast in the regions and nations because despite all the arguments FOR casting in the location that the programme is being made, they are not mandated to by the guidance and therefore many choose not to.
It has long been Equity’s policy, set and supported by many motions to both Council and the Annual Representative Conference, to seek to change this guidance. During 2018 Ofcom announced that there would be a call for evidence for a review into the guidance, and most importantly for Equity the guidance and criteria for production spend with regards to On-Screen Talent. Equity met Ofcom during stakeholder meetings across the UK as well as meeting them privately in London, the union also responded to the Consultation. Equity suggested that the exclusion for on-screen talent could be deleted from the production budget criterion to address this issue and proposed that Ofcom could amend the criteria to place an obligation on broadcasters and producers to undertake at least one local casting session, to demonstrate a willingness to explore the on-screen talent in the locality of the production.
Despite some positive changes, the results for on-screen talent were disappointing. Ofcom remained of the view that that the significant cost of on-screen talent on some productions could lead to the delivery of the quotas being skewed if it is included in the criteria and therefore did not propose to change this aspect of the Guidance. Ofcom recognised that on-screen talent was an important part of the production industry and they acknowledged that local casting initiatives may benefit local on-screen talent. However, Ofcom consider that broadcasters and production companies are best placed to decide what action is necessary to support the development of on-screen talent in the nations and regions.
Equity met again with Ofcom last week with the hope that they would be willing to listen again to our arguments over both the quotas and mandating the broadcasters to hold casting sessions. There is simply no appetite to change the quotas, and despite Ofcom agreeing to the benefits of casting sessions they do not feel comfortable mandating broadcasters. We explained that despite them making those observations in the consultation document, the guidance contains none of the rationale that surrounds their decision and broadcasters and production companies will just leave things as they were. Simply if Equity felt that broadcasters and production companies were already supporting the development of on-screen talent in the nations and regions then the union wouldn’t have had a need to have run a local casting campaign CAST IT HERE for at least the last ten years or published a Manifesto for Casting calling for greater local casting.
How can you help?
- Equity will be responding formally to this final part of the consultation, but it would make a big difference if members could also submit their own responses, to demonstrate to Ofcom the strength of feeling on the need for local casting opportunities.
- Your response can be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to Made Outside London Review Team, Ofcom, Riverside House, 2A Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA. The consultation closes at 5pm on Wednesday 27th February 2019.
- Equity would strongly urge you to respond to the consultation in your own words and give your own reasons for why broadcasters and production companies should be mandated to hold casting sessions locally. Everyone will have a different prospective and whilst we hope the narrative will be the same, for all the reasons we’ve outlined above, the decision to want to live and have access to work in the regions and nations is personal. You’ll also find additional arguments on the Manifesto for Casting page which you’ll find here
- Equity has provided a standard response you can use or adapt as follows:
Email to: email@example.com
Subject: Review of Regional TV Production and Programming Guidance: Consultation
[In your email, please give the following]
Your Full Name:
Please indicate how much of your response you want to keep confidential [delete as appropriate]: None / Whole response / Part of the response
I am writing in response to Ofcom’s consultation on its review of regional TV production and programming guidance. I am disappointed that on-screen talent is excluded from the criteria for a production to qualify as regional (which includes those badged as produced in one of the UK’s nations) and am writing to urge Ofcom to include opportunities for on-screen talent in its revised guidance and explanatory notes for public service broadcasters on regional TV production.
While Ofcom recognises on-screen talent as an important part of the production industry and the benefits of local casting initiatives, it is disappointing that the only reference in the amended guidance to on-screen talent is that it’s exempt from the criteria.
A huge diversity of performing talent resides in the regions, and local castings and auditions give performers in the regions an opportunity to seen and considered for work near where they live. It also opens up employment opportunities to a broader and more diverse range of talent, including those with caring and parental responsibilities.
The purpose of this regulatory structure is to strengthen regional production centres and creative and cultural economies across the UK, including helping to disperse job opportunities in the sector; actors and performers are a key part of their regional creative economies and are a significant factor in the success of productions.
I urge you to include opportunities for on-screen talent in the guidance and explanatory notes on regional production, and look forward to your response to this consultation.