The BBC, Channel 4, Sky, A+E Networks UK and Discovery UK have joined forces with ScreenSkills and Pact to create the Unscripted TV Skills Fund.
The new fund aims to address skills gaps and shortages in unscripted television as it builds a wider pool of off-screen crew and talent in the nations and regions, with a focus on building a more inclusive workforce and future-proofing the industry. Significant upfront funding has been provided by the BBC and Channel 4.
Areas of skills development to be supported by the fund include production management, development, self-shooting skills and postproduction. The new initiative replaces the ScreenSkills TV Skills Fund, which relied on broadcaster contributions alone, and the Indie Training Fund. It aims to raise in the region of £3 million a year by 2024 with contributions by production companies, broadcasters and SVOD services.
Seetha Kumar, CEO of ScreenSkills, said: “The new Unscripted TV Skills Fund sees the industry acting collectively and strategically to address acknowledged skills shortages and to achieve access, and effective progression of an inclusive workforce. This is the right thing to do if we are to walk the walk on equal access for crew and talent to support production in all parts of the UK and maintain the standards of excellence for which we are world-renowned.”
Richard Johnston, ScreenSkills chair, noted, “Establishing a properly financed fund that enables our world-leading non-scripted TV industry to take a long-term, strategic and coordinated approach to skills and inclusion has been a personal mission for the last three years, and I couldn’t be more delighted that we’re finally launching. Huge thanks go to BBC, Channel 4 and Pact for getting behind this from the start and showing what the industry can achieve when we work together.”
John McVay, CEO of Pact, added, “Pact has spent the past few years driving this strategy to invest in the future skills of the unscripted sector and welcomes the launch of the fund by ScreenSkills today. Indies recognize the importance of futureproofing the industry and are committed to playing their part to invest in training and to address the lack of diversity and inclusion in TV, particularly in the nations and regions.”
Charlotte Moore, BBC’s chief content officer, said, “We are delighted to be a founding investor and partner in this fund—with its critical focus on strengthening skills in the nations and English regions and improving off-screen diversity. Both are really important parts of our mission to strengthen the creative economy right across the U.K. It is great that companies from all four nations will have a seat at the table to determine how the fund is spent.”
Sinead Rocks, managing director of nations and regions at Channel 4, said: “We are proud to be founding investors and partners in the Unscripted TV Skills Fund, working collaboratively with ScreenSkills, Pact, the BBC and other broadcasters to supercharge training and development. We are particularly focused on addressing skills gaps in the nations and regions and believe this fund will really help support our aims.”
Zai Bennett, managing director of content at Sky UK, said: “The freelance nature of TV production means that cross-industry schemes like this are important to support people in developing their skills and to provide new opportunities for people who are under-represented. We look forward to working with all the partners involved to drive real change across the industry.”
Heather Jones, general manager for the U.K., senior VP of content and creative, EMEA at A+E Networks UK, said: “A+E Networks UK is committed to developing a diverse and inclusive workforce as well as commissioning production teams that better represent our audiences right across the U.K. We’re delighted to be partnering with ScreenSkills on the launch of their Unscripted TV Skills Fund, an initiative that will provide opportunities for people from all walks of life to start and develop a career in TV production. This is an important moment for our industry, as we strive to create a workforce in which everyone can belong and thrive. Congratulations to Seetha and team for making this happen.”
James Gibbons, EVP and GM, U.K. and Nordics at Discovery, said: “We are delighted to stand alongside partners like Sky and Channel 4 in building a more skilled and inclusive workforce through ScreenSkills’ Unscripted TV Skills Fund. The launch of our real-life streaming service discovery+ has seen our commissioning output significantly increase and we’re more committed than ever to investing in Britain’s world-class unscripted TV professionals.”