U.K. Broadcasters Urge Government to Support Freelancers Impacted by Coronavirus Crisis

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BBC Broadcasting House in London

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are among the signatories of a letter calling for income support to a beleaguered freelance community "as a matter of urgency."

The U.K.'s public service broadcasters have come together to call on the British government to financially support freelancers working in the industry who have been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

The letter — signed by the heads off the BBC, ITV, Channel, Viacom-owned Channel 5 and Welsh broadcaster S4C — adds to a growing chorus from the trade bodies and unions urging the government to assist freelancers in a creative sector that has been practically shut down due to the pandemic. 

Highlighting the importance of the industry, the letter noted that it now contributed more than 100 billion pounds ($117 billion) to the economy, and was "growing at five times the rates of the U.K. economy as a whole." It all pointed out that of the creative workers in film and TV, 50 percent of those engaged in screen production were freelancers. 

"So it is true to say that the global success and reputation of the U.K. creative industries depends on them," it added. "The very nature of the freelance community is that they do not have a single anchor employer; they work for the industry as a whole across TV and film, which makes them particularly vulnerable in current circumstances and therefore worthy of government support."

The broadcasters said a package of measures needed to be deployed "as a matter of urgency" that would provide for a level of income protection and access to statutory sick pay and said it was willing to engage with the government to identify these. 

The letter was signed by BBC general director Tony Hall, ITV chief exec Carolyn McCall, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon, Viacom CBS Networks International's president U.K. and Australia Maria Kyriacou and S4C CEO Owen Evans.