television unions


television unions
   The television unions in the UK represent workers active in three main areas: talent, craft and studio support. These unions initially grew out of distinct media areas, such as radio, cinema, theatre and other forms of entertainment, and the different craft and skill divides that existed within such activities. However, as the industry has changed, so the number of different unions has been consolidated. Currently, the main television union is the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU). Alongside this are the talent unions Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Journalists have their own specific union, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Unions, working alone or together in bodies such as the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU), look after the interests of their members, including pay, conditions, employment rights and contracts with employers, and negotiate and lobby on their members’ behalf with broadcasters, producers, national governments, regulators and European bodies.
   BECTU was created from the amalgamation of the ACTT and BETA in 1990. BETA was itself the result of the merger of the Association of Broadcasting and Allied Staff (ABS) and the National Association of Theatrical Television and Kine Employees (NATTKE) in 1984. ACTT incorporated the medium of television when, in 1956, commercial television came on stream. From the 1950s, employment in the broadcasting industry came to be linked to belonging to one of the accepted unions, such as the ACTT, and was considered by many to be a closed shop. In many ways this ‘closed shop’ had been an aim of the unions because of their desire to protect their members from the casualization of labour that had afflicted the film industry for some time. This was accepted by the broadcasters while the industry was healthy and profits made; recently, however, with increased competition, shifts towards more filmed productions, and the appearance of different types of organization with greater reliance on independent productions and the emergence of publisher-commissioner broadcasters, more labour is becoming casualized. It is in reaction to this that unions that once represented the old industrial and craft divides have begun to merge and amalgamate to reflect the new industrial situation.
   See also: trade unions
   Further reading
    Macdonald, B. (1993) Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: A Guide to Information Sources, London: Mansell.
   PAUL RIXON

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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