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Equity’s policy on Spotlight and casting directories

After concerns were raised by Equity, Spotlight has now taken the necessary step of cancelling Premiere. However, this move does not fix persistent issues that impact Equity members.

In recent months, Equity’s members have asked the union to review its policy on and approach to Spotlight and similar casting directories. This work started with an all-member consultation launched in August, closing in October. With nearly 2,000 responses, it’s gained one of Equity’s highest response rates for a survey. This review has gained increased importance following the attempted launch of Spotlight’s ‘Premiere’ tiered service at the end of October.

After concerns were raised by Equity, Spotlight users, and casting and agent associations, Spotlight has now taken the necessary step of cancelling Premiere. This is a success for Equity, our members, and the industry allies who spoke out. However, this move does not fix persistent issues with casting directories that continue to impact Equity members.

In most other industries it is illegal to charge the workforce for services like Spotlight. Except for in the performing arts and entertainment industries, the cost of work finding has to be met entirely by employers. Yet Spotlight currently do not charge agents or casting directors when they are members of the largest professional associations: the PMA and CDG. Equity believes that this is wrong, and that the model should now change. We believe that charging performers to use a casting directory is a tax on hope, and an unjust cost for a working person to bear.

Council has decided to campaign for the law to be changed so our industries are brought in line with most others. Equity believes all casting directories, including Spotlight, should be banned from charging work seekers, and so should be free for performers to use. It is the producers and engagers who should bear the cost. Members should look out for how they can get involved in this campaign, which will be launched shortly.

Although the law does currently allow directories like Spotlight to charge the workforce to use them, it also puts limits on how they should set their fees. We are continuing to receive advice on this, and again members should look out for an update on this position in the coming weeks.

It is the scale of member disquiet that compels us to respond to this issue. In doing so, we are articulating concerns felt and expressed across our membership. Despite our disagreements with Spotlight over their business model, the union will continue to engage with Spotlight and other casting directories where we have a shared interest for the good of our members and our industries.

In short, Equity Council has agreed to:

  • Begin a member campaign to pressure casting directories to charge producers and those involved in the casting process, and ban directories from charging our members to use their services
  • Explore all avenues to protect members from exploitation under the current system of charges for inclusion

Equity is a trade union, and ensuring fair access to good work for our membership is a core part of our role. The costs of casting should no longer be borne by our members; we will do all we can to reduce and end subscriptions to casting directories. This tax on hope should end.

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