Freelance workers and contract uncertainty: the effects of contractual changes in the television industry
Changes in the competitive and regulative conditions of British television over the 1980s and 1990s make for an environment of increased uncertainty for those who work in television. Broadcasting legislation, increased competition and technological advances have changed the working practices of the UK's 28,000 production workforce. The introduction of a 25 per cent quota of independent productions on all terrestrial channels, the implementation of Producer Choice in the BBC and the creation of a Network Centre in ITV, leading to a new commissioning process along with merger rationalisation and increasing competition have all contributed to constructing a workforce in which over 50 per cent are freelance and face much uncertainty. This paper focuses on some of the ways workers have experienced and responded to these changes by analysing the postal questionnaire and diary-data collected in an eight-wave panel study of 436 creative production workers in British television 1994-97, collected by the British Film Institute.This paper considers whether uncertainty is a problem and finds that it is for the majority of these workers. The question of what makes uncertainty a problem is also considered. Individuals were found to cope with uncertainty by diversifying the income sources, by collecting information, building informal networks and by thinking of leaving work in television.