Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Employment legislation in the TV and Film Industries

Employment legislation covers laws and standards that ensure that employees do not suffer from dangerous or unhealthy working environments or practices. Employment legislation has a number of different parts.

Health and safety ensure a safe and healthy working environment. The BBC for example has strict policies regarding accident and incident reporting, guidelines for health and safety, a risk assessment procedure and a security policy. Employees will be expected to abide by these rules and know the policies in order to help the BBC make sure the working environment is safe. On the BBC website, all these policies can be found and there is even a separate section for freelancers who are unlikely to be a familiar with the policies as full time employees.

Most media industry employers (if not all) will have a policy that ensures equal opportunities for all by not allowing any discrimination in terms of gender, race, disability, sexuality, religion or age. There is a law against this type of discrimination but some employers will be better at providing equal opportunities than others. Channel 4 even goes as far as to regularly monitor figures, stating on their website that ‘the representation of ethnic minorities amongst permanent staff in 2010 was 13% (2009: 12%). Women continue to form the majority of staff at 57% (2009: 55%)’.

Employers must get insurance in order to cover themselves, should they be liable to pay compensation to an employee who has injured or become sick due to their job. The BBC recommends this insurance to all filmmakers in order to ‘provide indemnity in respect of your legal liability to pay compensation for death, disease or bodily injury to employees arising out of and during the course of their employment’. This means the filmmaker will be covered by their insurance should they have to pay compensation to someone.

Employees will have many rights in their contracts regarding payments, sickness, holidays and the right to not be harassed, bullied or discriminated against. They will also have the right to belong to a trade union, such as BECTU. Trade unions such as this can provide many benefits to members such as negotiating pay, conditions and contracts with employers and helping individual members with support, advice and representation if they find themselves having trouble with employers.

Employees must also be aware of intellectual property issues such as copyright and trademarks. Workers in the media industry will often be in creative roles and will need to understand whether they as the author of the work will own the rights to it or if the company that they are producing the work for owns the rights. Scriptwriters will likely sell all the rights to their original work in order for the screenplay to be turned into a film by a production company. This means once the company own the copyright over the script, they can do with whatever they please and the original author has no rights over it. An employee in a TV company may also need to obtain copyright information if they wish to use a clip from another show in their own media product.

Trademarks are signs in the forms of a logo or word that distinguishes one company’s brand from its competitors. These trademarks must be registered with the Intellectual Property Office and as they stand for a recognisable brand in the consciousness of the public, have to be protected from misrepresentation. Disney has many major trademarks including the world famous Disneyland logo and it is important to protect this family friendly brand from anything that could ruin its reputation. For example Disney refused to release the controversial film Kids through their subsidiary Miramax due to the content and potential damage to Disney’s brand.