Thursday, September 05, 2019

BBC remuneration of artists in TV series under scrutiny

Regular readers of this blog will know I've been banging on about the total disrespect shown for artists appearing in television series - particularly on the BBC and Sky Arts - for some time.
I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the television programmes which use professional people as their "reality stars" and yet fail to give them any credit and/or pay them. Home is Where the Art is: Series 2 - Call for Artists
My one woman campaign seems to have generated some change - and benefits - for artists appearing on television

....and now a reporter from a major broadsheet newspaper is also interested - in the remuneration of artists who appear in a BBC series!

BBC Broadcasting House (headquarters) in London W1

Since I started highlighting the issue - in particular the total lack of named credits for artists appearing in programmes - we've seen some changes.

Series 5 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

Series 5 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 (initially aired on Sky and subsequently on Channel 4) had all the names of all the artists participating in each Heat/Episode on the production company's website before the series finished - see Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 - Find out more about this series artists (see an example for four of the artists in Episode 1 below). 

The website profile provided links to both their social media sites and their website - and I sometimes wonder whether all my hard work looking for all the names and those links paid off for somebody putting those profiles together! ;) It certainly made it a lot easier in relation to spelling names correctly as the series progressed!

Note the links to the artist's website and social media accounts on these new artists' profiles
- and why you need a website before going on TV!

I'm claiming this as a win because so far as I am aware nothing of this sort had ever been done before I started to comment on the lack of named credits for the artists participating in the programme. Plus I'm pretty sure it wasn't there at the beginning of the series. So maybe somebody read my comments? ;)

We just need to get the production company commissioned by Sky Arts to include the names of ALL the artists in the end credits of every "Artist of the Year" programme - whether Portrait or Landscape - and my work will be done! :)

The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts

My second success was "The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts".  

As I indicated in The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts - Episode 1 and The Artisans without a credit on Arts and Crafts House (which generated a HUGE number of visits to my blog)
I am getting very tired of the people who genuinely make the programme i.e. the people making things whether it's paintings or crafts - having their names left out of the press releases, the credits at the end of the programme and in general receiving very little formal recognition. 
I can only assume one of two things
  • EITHER the union for people who appear on television must have an absolute stranglehold on the bosses and refuse to allow the participants to enjoy the same benefits as those who hold union cards
  • OR the bosses buying and/or making the programme are not prepared to pay the going rate for others who would normally appear on such programmes. I gather from various people that the amounts they get paid are nominal in the extreme! To me this is simply unacceptable.
It's treating artists and craftspeople as commodities and not as people or professionals. Worse still, it treats them as anonymous nonentities who don't deserve a named credit when the credits roll at the end. Every other professional working on the programme is listed EXCEPT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE MAKING THINGS ON THE PROGRAMME! 

What happened next!

Some of the artists who appeared on the programme wrote to me after that blog post and asked if they could quote my blog post. They then went to the production company who made the programme and told them they were not satisfied about the lack of named credits on the end credits - and showed them what I had said.  The programme makers then approached the BBC to make a change - and by the next week their names were all on the end credits of Episode 2!
[ UPDATE: see also my other posts. I'm very pleased to tell you that the artisans wrote to the producers of the programme about the lack of name credit - quoting my blog post - and by the second episode, they'd got their name credit at the end of the programme!
The Artisans without a credit on Arts and Crafts House The Artisans #2 - Stephen Winstanley, Niamh Wimperis and Rod Hughes ]
So it's not as if the BBC is wholly averse to end credits for arts and crafts people!

Home Is Where The Art Is

The MAJOR exception for me was "Home Is Where The Art Is" - the first series of which aired in the Spring of this year.

Interestingly, I've recently had a reporter from a major broadsheet newspaper writing to me to ask for more details about how the BBC treats creatives in this particular series (eg re payment for their time, materials etc).
  • I've referred him to the artists - via the links in my blog posts. 
  • I do know from having spoken to a number of them during the first series that there are a variety of views about the programme. Some were very pleased with the result of their participation in the series - and others much less so.
  • My understanding is that 
    • participants receive reimbursement of nominal travel expenses 
    • a nominal cost of materials is reimbursed for those who do not win the commission (I seem to recall something like a budget of £150 from memory)
  • The ONLY people who get paid for their expertise and labour are the artists who win the commission.  Those who lose out on the commission also lose the income from the artwork for sale that they would have been producing for sale during the time taken for the filming.
  • The programme portrays a wholly misleading picture of the way commission pitches normally work i.e. 
    • normally a commission would only get made up by the artist who wins the commission on the basis of their pitch of what they propose to do in response to the commission specification. 
    • those that pitch but do not win the commission only lose out on whatever costs they incur to travel and meet with the client and the opportunity cost of time spent in thinking about and creating a presentation for the pitch (and that does not always happen in a digital age where people can talk face to face online - which can be a much more efficient way of spending your time)
  • Those artists who impress the viewing audience in terms of the work produced can do well from the exposure and subsequent commissions. However this rather depends on them having a name which is easy to understand when SPOKEN on television as their are NO NAMED CREDITS. This is not very culturally sensitive given that many of those from different ethnicities have names which need spelling out to write correctly.

I did wonder whether the journalist had been reading my post Home is Where the Art is: Series 2 - Call for Artists in which I highlighted some of the ethical issues and working practices of those making this series
Some of you may recall my previous posts on the first series including
  • Home Is Where the Art Is - needs a makeover! in which I highlighted my concern about the absence of any name credit in text in the programme explain why it should be mandatory that all participants who are professional artists get a named credit.
Incidentally, when I write about artists I take the trouble to check the correct spelling of their name and find their websites and social media sites online and include them when referencing the artist

If I can do it why can't the BBC?

I did also wonder whether the journalist had been approached by people who have applied for this or other series and been seriously unimpressed by the BBC's lack of respect for professional expertise and/or recompense for appearance on the show and/or whether those he had spoken to had mentioned my blog posts.

All I know is that it would be really nice to see a major newspaper exposing some rather shoddy practice re name recognition and remuneration of series participants on the part of the BBC (eg no named credit in the end credits or on screen and lack of payment for their time - unless they win). The sooner we can get away from treating the creative arts with a game show mentality the better!

I'm very sure Nick Knowles does NOT get paid less than the going rate on the basis that "the exposure will be good for him"

How many times have we heard that one before from various cheapskates?

All I can say is - watch this space!  I'll be sending a link to this post to the journalist so he can see the issue about name recognition and proper remuneration is a lot wider than just one programme.....