Project Details


Opting out of the government directive, regarding how many hours an employee can be asked to work, has been common practice in the broadcast industry for many years. Filming shoots are complex, demanding and expensive, populated by crews who pride themselves on the ability to keep going until the final scene is complete.
Television Production Managers have long relied on staff ignoring the 48-hour rule, when drawing up filming plans. The opt out clause is often the only way ambitious shooting schedules can be achieved and viewed as a freedom from convention, but is this really the case? The almost macho ethos of staying “until the job is done” effectively ignores how impossible this work ethic can be for women to subscribe to.
By creating filming schedules which favour those with few caring responsibilities, are we effectively barring female workers from certain projects? Reinforcing a machismo culture of production?
Should we be moving to a feminisation of TV production schedules?

Though gender inequalities in pay in broadcasting have been analysed and much has been written about the lack of female film directors, there is little work on how the television industries working patterns may act as a barrier for women. This project will address this gap.
The project will theorise, analyse and identify why working hours in TV are so long. From an historical perspective, I will examine how these working practices began and why they still exist. From a sociological perspective, I will consider if more structured working hours which favoured caregivers, would encourage women to carve out respected positions in an industry which is fundamentally patriarchal in nature.

The project addresses two central research questions: Can a different approach to filming schedules still allow production companies to compete in an industry already witnessing shrinking budgets? and does the existing structure marginalise women in broadcasting?

The primary methodology will be the analysis of carefully selected historical and contemporary case studies. Looking at UK production schedules on live daytime productions from 1980 to present day, to see if existing working practices are a tradition of the craft, or instead linked with the less prominent role of broadcast unions and the increased landscape of freelance and casual workers.
The role of commissioning will be considered as a factor potentially encouraging long working hours. The BBCs Compete or Compare’ strategy which in 2016 removed the in-house guarantee began the competitive tendering of returning series that were previously made by BBC Studios. What impact (if any) did inviting pitches from BBC Studios and independent producers have on working hours

Layman's description

Aims of project: to interview Television Production Managers in order to:
• Better understand why the practice of long working hours is so ingrained in TV production.
• Compare UK broadcast working conditions, to countries who do not allow the opt out. Do these countries produce less output?
• Consider if the working practices associated with TV crews have been formed exactly because the roles are predominately undertaken by men.
Short titleThe TV Opt Out
Effective start/end date1/09/1831/12/20

Collaborative partners

  • Edge Hill University (lead)
  • BBC
  • ITV
  • Production Guild
  • Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union


  • Production Schedules
  • film and television industries
  • gender inequalities
  • Motherhood


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