Published on: 28 February 2019 in Industry

Directors UK calls for greater monitoring of off-screen talent in response to Ofcom’s Review of Regional Programme Guidance

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Directors UK has submitted a response to Ofcom’s Review of Regional TV Production and Programming Guidance, calling for increased monitoring of the roles being employed as part of the 50% off-screen talent criterion. 

This latest consultation is part of Ofcom’s review of the effectiveness of its Regional TV Production and Programming Guidance — which advises Public Service Broadcasters on the requirements for meeting their regional production quotas and obligations.

The findings from last year’s call for evidence about the effectiveness of the current regime highlighted industry concerns over how the guidance was being applied and complied with, and that it was not delivering on its policy objectives – namely to support and strengthen the television production sector and creative economies in the Nations and Regions.  

In our response to the original call to evidence Directors UK highlighted the concern of members in the Nations and Regions over the low engagement of local creative talent to work on programmes commissioned within their nation or region — an issue that has been hidden by the lack of monitoring and reporting on the use of off-screen talent.

Now, in response to industry feedback, Ofcom are proposing to update their guidance in order to clarify their regional production policy objectives and help broadcasters and production companies to apply it.

Their proposed new guidance includes changes to strengthen two of the criteria that define regional productions; changes to the process of allocating productions to multi-regions; and to provide additional explanatory notes to help the industry in applying the guidance. They are also proposing to require PSBs to provide more evidence on how they meet the regional productions criteria, to introduce spot-checks to monitor how the guidance is being applied, and to publish more data and improve transparency.

The Directors UK team has reviewed these proposals and has submitted a response that supports many of these changes. In particular, we welcome the increased clarity as to what constitutes a substantive base, improved guidance on what can be counted as regional production spend, the increase in requirements for reporting and publishing data, and more proactive monitoring by Ofcom. 

However, some issues remain. We have objected to Ofcom’s view that there is no requirement for more detailed guidance or monitoring of the roles counting towards the 50% off-screen talent criterion. We believe that without this we have no way of assessing who is being employed within the off-screen talent quota, and whether their input into the process of programme-making in the region is significant in a creative sense. This does not address our concern that senior regional production talent, such as directors or other HODs, are being overlooked and the regional off-screen talent quota is being met by employing small numbers of junior staff. Instead, Ofcom are intending to conduct a survey in order to benchmark the use of nations and regions talent and resources. 

We will continue to push for improved reporting and monitoring of the employment of off-screen talent in the Nations and Regions, as we believe this is key to ensuring the regional policy objective — to support and strengthen the television production sector and creative economies in the nations and regions — is achieved.

Read our response in full. 

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