Screen industries booming but workers paying a price - Culture Committee

Published 18/10/2023   |   Last Updated 18/10/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

The creative industries is one of Wales’s best-performing sectors and film and television production is a particularly high-growth area. The estimated total turnover of creative industries is 5% of the total GDP in Wales.

However, organisations such as Ffilm Cymru, the development agency for Welsh film, and Wales Interactive, a computer games publisher and developer, have told the Senedd that massive demand for their work is leading to serious pressures on their workforce.

Ffilm Cymru said that the huge demand for content has meant that “people are working very long hours, they are working from production to production without the breaks that they might have had in the past.”

Tom Ware from the University of South Wales said that challenging working conditions, work intensity, and long hours driven by the production boom in the screen industry has an impact:

“People work very, very long hours, especially when they're working on set, on location. There's a rigidity to the working structures there that pressurises people.” 

Professor Justin Lewis from Cardiff University thinks that there is a role for government, in partnership with broadcasters, to lead on efforts to improve working conditions in the screen industry.

Bullying and problematic behaviour

Despite the boom in the screen sector, the Committee also heard evidence of bullying and poor working conditions from people working in the industry.      

One person giving evidence said: “I have lost count the amount of times I have seen people being verbally abused on set. The egos of directors is a real thing and I have to be honest it does not make for a pleasant working environment – from other people I know, I would say it’s probably a common occurrence in the industry.”

Action needed

The Senedd’s Culture Committee is calling for action and for the Welsh Government, with trade unions and production companies, to make sure that workers can work in an environment free of discrimination, bullying and prejudice.

Delyth Jewell MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee said:

“Our screen industry has been a real Welsh success story. It’s been driven by the imagination, expertise and hard work of the talented people who work within it.

“Sadly, workers seem to be paying the price for the huge demand on the industry. We have heard concerning evidence that long hours, work intensity, poor working culture and practices are creating environments harmful to the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce.

“While they’ve made positive interventions to date, we believe that the Welsh Government has a greater role to play in changing the industry’s approach to workplace well-being by playing a coordinating role in addressing this. We think the Welsh Government needs to lead the way by supporting and promoting best practice, and by setting expectations for the industry.

“It is unacceptable that workers should be subject to bullying behaviour at work, a place which should be a safe space for them. We are determined to ensure that all those who participate and work within the creative industries in Wales can do so without fear of prejudice, bullying or discrimination.”

A tale of two creative industries

The inquiry carried out by the Committee has highlighted that the screen sector in Wales, both before and after the Covid-19 pandemic, has grown significantly. The sector was able to respond quickly following the initial lockdown and is busier now than ever.

However, the other parts of the creative industries are struggling. The arts, culture and music sectors have not fully recovered since the pandemic. This recovery has been hampered by rocketing energy costs and a slow return of audiences (compared to pre-pandemic levels). Unfortunately, the additional support provided by the Welsh Government to these sectors, while welcomed, has been eaten up by record levels of inflation.

The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to urgently assess the financial health of arts venues in Wales working with the Arts Council of Wales, the Music Venues Trust and other organisations. This assessment should be completed before the next financial year in order to allow for any further support to be provided if required.

The Welsh Government will now have to respond to the Committee’s report and recommendations.


More on this story

Behind the scenes: The creative industries workforce: Read the report

Inquiry: Challenges facing the creative industry workforce in Wales