Working in TV is a dream career for many in the UK, but television can seem like a closed off industry, dominated by mysterious jargon; unclear hierarchies and unadvertised job roles enter the The Network scheme. Without a helping hand to guide the way, breaking into the industry can seem like an impossible task.
This can feel especially true for disabled candidates – an industry report in 2017 found that only 5.5% of off-screen staff in television are disabled, compared to 18% of the national population. To be a truly representational medium, we need to ensure that this changes. The people making TV need to be as diverse as the audience watching it – whether that’s in terms of disability, ethnic and socio-economic background or regional diversity. And working in television should be a career that feels open to everyone.
But where to start? Although breaking into the industry can look difficult at first glance, there are lots of organisations who are opening doors to help people from all backgrounds start a career in TV.
As well as programs like the Pact Indie Diversity Training Scheme and Leonard Cheshire Change100, the Edinburgh TV Festival runs a free entry-level talent scheme – The Network –with the aim of helping anyone aged 18+ get their first job in TV, no experience necessary. Delegates on the scheme get access to industry-led masterclasses, training and mentoring, as well as ongoing support as they start their career. Although not quite at the national level yet, 13% of attendees on The Network were disabled people, and with applications for 2018 open now, hopefully that number is set to rise.
Talent schemes like The Network can be an ideal route into the industry, as they offer more personalised help and structured guidance, as well as a support system and a ready-made peer group of other TV hopefuls. They also help attendees get a better overall view of how the TV industry works and what different job titles really mean.
Websites like Prospects and Creative Skillset, can also help with understanding different roles, and figuring out what types of jobs someone might be suited to. Creative people with lots of ideas could excel in development, building up ideas for programmes you’ll eventually see on screen. Those with pinpoint attention-to detail could become loggers, watching TV footage to make meticulous notes for editing and post-production. And highly organised people who love schedules could work as production secretaries, working from start-to-finish on the administrative side of productions.
When it comes to actually looking for jobs, lots of broadcasters are making their recruitment more accessible for everyone. For example, the BBC has a new talent disability recruitment portal, Extend Hub, and Channel 4 advertises all of its vacancies on Evenbreak, a specialist job board run by and for disabled people.
With new opportunities appearing all the time, and commitment from across the industry to improve inclusion and accessibility, hopefully in the near future everyone will see themselves reflected on TV, both on and off screen.