EXCLUSIVE: British trade union Bectu is sitting down with Channel 4 this week to discuss complaints from freelancers about the working culture on Studio Lambert’s hit TV show Gogglebox.
Bectu has turned to Channel 4 after Studio Lambert, the All3Media-owned producer behind CBS’s Undercover Boss and Netflix’s The Circle, has been reluctant to meet with the union since it first raised concerns last year.
Bectu has received complaints from up to 10 current and former Gogglebox crew members about “bullying behavior” on the show, which has recorded a string of record audiences during lockdown. In January, The Guardian reported on a “toxic” culture of excessive work hours, a lack of breaks, and people being shouted at.
“I am talking to Channel 4 about the fact that they [Studio Lambert] have been reluctant to engage,” said Bectu head Philippa Childs. “They haven’t wanted to engage with the union on a more general discussion around complaints that we have received. We do find it disappointing because lots of what we do involves discussions about how to make things better, not necessarily going in all guns blazing.”
A Studio Lambert spokeswoman referred Deadline to a previous statement, in which the company said that it has had conversations with Bectu and wants those who made complaints to the union to raise their concerns with producers directly.
“We were in communication with Bectu last year and reassured them that we take the welfare of our employees extremely seriously across all our productions and do not tolerate bullying or misconduct,” the statement said.
“We requested they ask individuals to set out any complaints in writing as due to confidentiality and data protection laws, it is not appropriate to discuss any issues relating to individuals whether anonymised or not with Bectu. We have a number of processes in place for managing concerns. We strive to improve working practices at all times and are confident that we have appropriate standards across all the shows we produce.”
Channel 4 has previously said that it has “clear standards of behaviour it expects from its suppliers and production partners” and is “satisfied” that Studio Lambert is “taking appropriate action to ensure the welfare of its teams.”
The Gogglebox meeting comes during a week in which bullying has been heavily in the spotlight after nearly 1,200 UK industry freelancers and executives wrote to ITV complaining about Piers Morgan’s treatment of a former colleague on Twitter.
Morgan said he’d “rather employ a lobotomised Aardvark” than work with Adeel Amini again after the freelance producer was engaged on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories as a researcher in 2010. In their open letter to ITV, the television workers said they were “appalled” by Morgan’s attack and felt compelled to call out “bullying and harassment.”
In reply, ITV said it was not investigating the matter because Amini had not raised specific concerns about his time on Life Stories. It added that Morgan is employed as a freelancer and it does “not control his output on social media.” Amini said ITV’s response was “disappointing” and suggested that the incident had left him feeling suicidal. “There comes a line when moral responsibility ought to shine over business viability,” he added.
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