Joan Bakewell: 'TV producers are told to stop freelances getting employment rights'
Broadcaster Joan Bakewell has told how freelances working in television are deliberately denied employment rights. Bakewell, giving the 23rd James Cameron lecture at the City University in London last night, said in the post-Birt era the rising salaries of a small group of top BBC managers had coincided with a squeeze on the budgets of programme makers. There was also the growth of independent production companies and reality television, with more serious programmes being moved to the extremes of the schedules. She added: "Those who cherished the public service broadcasting ethic began to speak of dumbing down. It was when the major forces who ran television, BBC and ITV, began to lose the loyalty of their troops and anything like coherent moral leadership. "Today responsible producers tell me in private of their misgivings at being directed informally not to renew the freelance contracts of those who work for them without allowing a two week break. You see, that way the company avoids being responsible for employees rights, holidays, sick leave, maternity leave." The annual James Cameron award went to Gary Younge, the Guardian feature writer and columnist based in the US. A special award was made to honour Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of the Sunday Leader in Sri Lanka, who was murdered in January while driving to work. He wrote his own obituary which began: "No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism."
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