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Freelancing just as awful in broadcast sector

TV presenter Roger Bolton (centre) examines the results of a straw poll (off camera) on freelance training, flanked by the NUJ's Adam Christie (left) and John Toner (right).

VETERAN presenter of Right to Reply and Panorama Roger Bolton said of freelances in the broadcasting sector: "This cannot go on, this exploitation." He was speaking at an event in July hosted by the Broadcast Training and Skills Regulator and film and TV association BAFTA, aimed at gauging the needs of broadcast freelances. Bolton said that compared to when he joined the industry without any formal training, freelances today face a "much tougher world."

Occasionally interrupted by sounds from the Harry Potter premier upstairs, 112 freelances were asked their views on freelances' training needs. Many of them work in both film and TV, and there were complaints that while there was money available to train freelances in broadcasting - with Skillset paying up to 80 per cent of some course fees - funding was often specific to film or for TV only. Most of the people present I talked to don't even work exclusively in broadcasting, and cross over into writing, design or photography for print and web.

Two thirds of those questioned said they had never been offered training by the people they worked for, and more people had their training paid for by grant-awarding bodies than by their employers. Several commented that training courses were too broad and generic for freelances, who often couldn't anticipate what skills they would need. Trainers were often felt to be too "educational" and out of touch with the industry, and there were accusations of cronyism in training institutions, with courses that seemed to exist just to provide teaching jobs.

Other issues that freelances brought up were getting your money back if you're not happy with a course, and a need for more training in "future proofing" - looking ahead to changes in the industry, as well as more mentoring training for experienced broadcasters who have to give on-the-job training.

The only applause of the evening was reserved for the NUJ Freelance Industrial Council's Adam Christie, saying: "I need training as much as I did 30 years ago. We never stop needing to keep upping our skills. We don't stop doing our job until we're picked up out of whatever we're doing and dropped in a coffin."

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