Quality of television is going down the tube, say staff

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NEARLY THREE-quarters of the people who work in television feel that the quality of the programmes they produce has gone down, according to a new study.

The damning report also reveals that women working in television are likely to earn less than their male counterparts despite the fact that they are unlikely to have children, a traditional rationalisation for why women do less well than their male counterparts.

The four-year study published today by the British Film Institute (BFI) finds massive disillusionment with television from inside the industry.

Fifty-five per cent of television professionals say ethical standards are lower, almost half believe accuracy has suffered, and 40 per cent think technical standards are lower. Creative standards are judged to have fallen by more than one-third of respondents.

The study also confirms what most applicants for a job in television already suspect: it is who you know rather than what you know that counts. Personal contacts were shown in the study to have been the most important means for people to find new work. Only 5 per cent found employment by advertisement and interview.

Data for the study was collected from 436 television workers from all age-groups in nine questionnaires completed between 1994 and 1998.

Producers and directors made up 80 per cent of respondents and a higher proportion were women than men: 41 per cent compared with 39 per cent. But women workers on average earned considerably less than their male counterparts. They were also most likely to work freelance.

It is still difficult for women to start a family and remain in television work. More than half the women had no children, compared with only one-quarter of the men. Among those over 40, 56 per cent of women had no children, and 15 per cent of men.

On income, it emerged that 30 per cent of respondents earned between pounds 30,000 and pounds 50,000, and 21 per cent more than pounds 50,000. Nearly half earned under pounds 30,000. Some 13 per cent of women earned less than pounds 10,000, compared with 4 per cent of men - and just 2 per cent of women earned more than pounds 70,000, but 15 per cent of men.

t Television Industry Tracking Study: Third Report; BFI, 21 Stephen Street, London W1P 2LN.