Human Rights and TV

Using a human rights lens to look at the making of TV programmes involves identifying and taking the perspective of all the people potentially impacted by TV productions and identifying any potential or actual adverse impacts on them.

 

The approach is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which were ratified unanimously by the Human Rights Council in 2011. The UNGPs articulated a societal expectation for companies to operate in a way that does no harm. To this end, the UNGPs established that there is a corporate responsibility to respect human rights that is separate and distinct from the state duty to protect human rights.

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Using a human rights lens

People impacted by TV Production

The UNGPs also established the concept of human rights due diligence: a requirement for companies to identify, assess, prevent, mitigate, remedy, track and communicate their human rights risks and impacts.

Importantly, the UNGPs do not limit a company’s responsibility to its immediate employees or its own activities. Instead, they make clear that a company must address all the adverse human rights impacts posed by its activities and business relationships, including the full extent of its supply chains.

 

Applying this lens to TV production first involves mapping all those people potentially impacted, identifying the ways that they may be adversely impacted and then conducting research to understand the likelihood and severity of such impacts.

The TV industry produces programmes for broadcast on different channels or via different platforms. A central part of the TV industry is TV production, which involves the making or creation of content for linear television or digital channels.

 

The TV production process starts at commissioning and goes through pre-production, production and post-production. The diagram on the right provides a simplified overview of the process. Each stage represents opportunities to identify and address human rights issues.

There is much to value and be proud of in the way that TV production works. It is in many ways remarkable how individuals and groups come together as a team to make high quality content, often under intensive pressure.

The industry depends on relationships and connections and this is how it manages to work effectively. This can bring a sense of camaraderie and a feeling of being part of a family, a sentiment frequently raised by crew and ancillary workers alike.

However, it can also bring challenges.

 

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About TV production

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Production-level challenges

The Forum's research to date has identified a range of labour rights issues that are a common feature of TV productions:

  • Long working hours are an accepted norm for the industry

  • Safety issues

  • Mental health impacts

  • Precarious employment, with most workers either self-employed or on zero hours contracts

  • Bullying and harassment, although this has improved markedly in recent years

  • Fear of speaking out due to retaliation