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Equity Calls on Forthcoming PM to Safeguard the Creative Workforce

Equity's new President Lynda Rooke and General Secretary Paul W Fleming have written to both candidates in the Conservative leadership election.

Equity Calls on Forthcoming PM to Safeguard the Creative Workforce

Equity​, the performing arts and entertainment trade union, is calling on the forthcoming Prime Minister to adopt a 5-point plan to safeguard the future of the creative workforce. This includes abandoning Channel 4 privatisation, delivering sustainable long-term BBC funding, investing in the arts as part of Levelling Up, improving Universal Credit for creatives and protecting performers from unregulated artificial intelligence.

Equity's new President Lynda Rooke and General Secretary Paul W Fleming have written to both candidates in the Conservative leadership election, Liz ​Truss and Rishi Sunak.

You can read the letter in full below:

Dear Elizabeth Truss and Rishi Sunak,

We are writing on behalf of Equity, the UK trade union representing over 47,000 performers and creative practitioners. As candidates to be the next Prime Minister, we urge you to adopt the following 5-point plan to safeguard the future of the creative workforce.

1. Abandon Channel 4 privatisation

Channel 4 was set up by Margaret Thatcher as a commercially-funded, publicly-owned alternative to the BBC, offering original, high-quality content for under-served audiences. It costs the taxpayer nothing whilst guaranteeing investment into the independent production sector across the UK. This hugely successful broadcaster returned a profit of £74 million last year and contributed £1 billion to the economy, supporting 10,000 jobs and 15,000 training opportunities. Channel 4 also leads the way when it comes to investment outside of London, spending £222m last year on external productions in the Nations & Regions. Not only is Channel 4 in solid financial health, but selling it off makes no economic sense. Ernst & Young have estimated that privatisation could result in £2.1bn being slashed from the supply chain over a ten­ year period and 2,400 fewer jobs each year.

With the credibility of economic policies the key focus of the leadership election. will you commit to reversing the planned sale of Channel 4?

2. Deliver sustainable long-term funding for the BBC

The BBC is another essential part of the mixed ecology of the UK production sector. It is the biggest single investor in original British content and generates £2 for every £1 spent for the UK economy. Crucially, the BBC is a training ground for new talent, providing a variety of work opportunities that cannot be found elsewhere. We understand the need to review the merit of reviewing different funding models to safeguard its future. What our country needs is a truly universal public broadcaster that is owned and run by both the licence fee payer and its workforce - including both those permanently employed and the freelance army it relies on.

Will you commit to delivering a sustainable long term funding plan to guarantee universal access and employment opportunities for the creative workforce?

3. Invest in the arts as part of the levelling up agenda

It is welcome that both candidates remain committed to levelling up. With our industry's ongoing problem of elitism, the creative workforce must be at the very heart of this agenda to help increase access for those from working class and marginalised backgrounds. The funding landscape that supports our industry is also extremely precarious. The latest Arts Index found that public funding for the arts per head of population - via the Lottery, local and national government- has dropped by 35% since 2008, with local government funding for the arts falling by 43%. The creative arts sector also faces wildly inequitable distribution of public funding.

Will you commit to reversing a decade of cuts to arts funding and consider reforming the current Arts Council model into regional structures to help level up opportunities across every region and nation?

4. Improve universal credit for creative freelancers

Our Social Security and Tax team have made it very clear to officials at the Department for Work and Pensions that the current one-size-fits-all structure of Universal Credit is unsuitable for creative freelancers, who are a key and growing part of the UK economy. The minimum income floor in particular punishes creatives with unpredictable and fluctuating earnings, forcing those at the start of their careers with low earnings to find paid work in other sectors in order to comply with their Universal Credit commitments. Equity has long campaigned for the abolition of the minimum income floor and for there to be sector specific support for the creative workforce, which accounts for 7% of all UK jobs and is up from 6% in 2015.

Will you commit to abolishing the minimum income floor to improve the social security safety net for self­ employed entertainers?

5. Protect performers from unregulated artificial intelligence

Finally, artificial intelligence (Al) has advanced rapidly in recent years, with commercial Al companies found across all areas of the entertainment industries including voice, visual arts, modelling, music, dance, journalism, and gaming. These technological developments present exciting opportunities to enhance our members' working lives if applied ethically and responsibly. Unfortunately, the UK intellectual property framework is desperately out of date, which is leaving our members vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. You will no doubt share our desire to ensure performers are fairly compensated and can control the exploitation of their digital self.

To maintain the UK position as a creative and economic powerhouse. will you commit to strengthening performers' rights as part of the government's National Al strategy?

We look forward to working together with the new Prime Minister and Cabinet to deliver on these commitments.

Yours sincerely,

Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary
Lynda Rooke, Equity President

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