Precarious Creativity: Working Lives in the British Independent Television Production Industry

Lee, David John. 2008. Precarious Creativity: Working Lives in the British Independent Television Production Industry. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Broadcasting is undergoing a period of profound change. Convergence and digitisation are reshaping production and consumption. In the multi-channel environment, public service broadcasting (PSB) finds itself under threat, as traditional funding models are threatened by increased choice, new modes of delivery, and, for commercial public service broadcasters, a reduction in advertising revenue. In the UK, the industry base has undergone significant restructuring over the last twenty-five years. This has occurred following the creation of Channel 4 in 1982, and the emergence of the independent television production sector (ITPS) , coupled with a steady process of employment and industry deregulation. Labour in the sector is now predominantly freelance (Skillset, 2006a, 2007a), and increasingly concentrated in the ITPS, largely in London but with growing production bases at a regional level. Furthermore, the independent sector itself is reshaping, from a sector predominantly made up of small 'one-man band' lifestyle companies, to the more commercially facing, vertically integrated 'super-indies' which now dominate the sector (Mediatique, 2004).

In this context of transformation, this thesis is an investigation of creative labour in the ITPS in the UK, focused specifically on factual television production. Based on extended qualitative research of a group of twenty individuals over a six-month period, and supplementary interviews with company managers, the research examines the nature of work and production for individuals in this industry. The sample is cross-generational and includes a wide range of production positions, from researcher to series producer. The research focuses on the consequences of casualisation and risk for television workers, exploring how they manage their careers in the face of rampant insecurity. Drawing on Sennett's (1998) method of narrative sociology, the thesis explores the personal consequences of flexible labour markets (of which television is exemplary) on working individuals. It focuses on the subjective response of individuals to working in this area of the cultural economy, exploring the attractions of cultural labour despite the ontological insecurity and (self)-exploitation which often accompanies such work. It examines the emergence of 'network sociality' (Wittel, 2001) in the creative labour market, and the implications of this for recruitment and access to the television industry. Finally, it utilises the notion of 'craft' (Sennett, 2006), in order to explore the impact of flexible accumulation on television workers' production values

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


broadcasting, independent television production sector (ITPS), factual television production, United Kingdom, creative labour, casualisation, flexible labour markets, cultural economy

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 May 2020 13:59

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:24


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