Women worst hit by U.K. TV sector cutbacks

5,000-plus left industry since 2006, compared to 300 men

LONDON -- More than 5,000 women have left the U.K. television industry as part of cutbacks over the past three years, compared to just 300 men, according to preliminary findings from industry body Skillset research.

The research, based on the 2009 census across the creative industries, surveyed staff and freelance numbers across the terrestrial broadcasters including the BBC and ITV; digital channels including E4, Sky One and Dave, and the independent production sector.

It has found that the industry has contracted from 55,580 employees in 2006 compared to just 50,550 this year, and that 5,000 of those jobs lost had belonged to women compared to 300 men.

Skillset said it planned to produce a more detailed review of the television industry data next February, but said it did not currently have an explanation for the disproportionate exodus of women.

"It is a real worry: a drop like this in a short period suggests a talent drain," said Skillset executive director, Kate O'Connor, in an interview with the mediaguardian.co.uk website.

"But we can't say what are the reasons; though the drop is so dramatic, we haven't carried out that work yet. I honestly can't comment on who is leaving, their ages, or why, because the census doesn't show that," O'Connor told the paper.

"We intend to investigate and produce a larger report on Feb. 1, which will also cover issues such as equality."

The final report will likely look at whether women leave the sector because of ageism, lack of family-friendly working policies or the long-hours culture. Britain's biggest broadcasters have all been cutting back over the past three years, with several thousand jobs culled at the BBC since 2006, plus around 1,500 losses at ITV.