Culture of bullying blights TV industry

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The Independent Online

To the millions whose only experience of television is watching from the sofa, it is a world of glamour and prosperity. For those who work behind the screen, it is an industry rife with bullying.

A survey of media workers has found 28 per cent of people who make their living in television have been bullied, many suffering racist, sexist or homophobic abuse from bosses.

The study, published to coincide with the Edinburgh International Television Festival, showed intimidation and harassment were often found in the high-pressure culture of production schedules and the obsession with ratings. The main terrestrial broadcasters and large independent production companies have new codes of conduct banning bullying and setting out procedures for complaints.

Managers at BBC News have appointed a "bullying tsar" to help to stamp out intimidation in newsrooms. But Kate Marlow, a former theatre director who now works as a corporate consultant on dealing with bullying, said: "You have people who go from contract to contract and don't want to upset anybody in an industry where a bad word from someone powerful means you might not work again.

"You get executives who are desperate to deliver, passing that pressure on to directors and producers, who in turn pass it on to assistant producers and in those circumstances a bully can thrive."

One respondent to the survey said: "There are many insecure people in this industry of modest talent and massive ego. There are a few brilliant, instinctive managers and loads of rubbishy but self-righteous ones. Bullying is a standard tactic for those."

The survey by the polling company YouGov was based on interviews with 400 people in television, marketing, public relations and design. The problem is to be discussed at the Edinburgh festival by a panel including Simon Waldman, editor of BBC News 24 who was appointed last year to lead an anti-bullying drive.