Precarious creativity: Changing attitudes towards craft and creativity in the British independent television production sector

David Lee
2012 Creative Industries Journal  
Paper: Lee, DJ (2012) Precarious creativity: Changing attitudes towards craft and creativity in the British independent television production sector. Creative Industries Journal (4). 155 -170. http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/cij.4.2.155_1 Precarious creativity: Changing attitudes towards craft and creativity in the British independent television production sector Cite as: Lee, D. (2012). Precarious creativity: Changing attitudes towards craft and creativity in the British independent television
more » ... tion sector. Creative Industries Journal, 4(2), 155-170. Abstract: This article focuses on television workers' attitudes towards craft and creative practice within the field of factual television production in the British independent television production sector (ITPS). Based on longitudinal qualitative research, it argues that a radical shift has occurred in the professional values that television producers' associate with their creative work, by focusing on ethical and professional norms within factual television production. By considering the historical and contemporary discourse of 'craft' within this area of creative work, the article interrogates the nature of the changes that have taken place. The wider significance of these changes is also considered, through an engagement with theoretical concerns about the place of craft within late modernity (Sennett 2006) , and with debates about the changes that have taken place within the political economy of independent television production. The article's findings have contextual significance within contemporary debates about creative work (Hesmondhalgh & Baker, 2010) . Despite the celebratory policy rhetoric of the 'creative industries' (DCMS 1998), the transformed production environment within contemporary British television has had a detrimental effect on skills retention and development, as well as on the potential for creativity within the industry. The emerging social order mitigates against the ideal of craftsmanship, that is, learning to do just one thing really well; such commitment can often prove economically destructive. In place of craftsmanship, modern culture advances an idea of meritocracy which celebrates potential ability rather than past achievement. (Sennett, 2006: 4) This article explores the impact of the material conditions of labour in the British independent television production sector (ITPS) on workers' production values and sense of craft in their creative work. The findings are based on interviews with twenty individuals working in the ITPS across a range of creative occupations. Under the deregulated and commercialised conditions of production in the freelance independent sector, (self-) exploitation is rife for a large number of workers, associated with extremely long hours, stress, insecurity, and a lack of pension provision and holiday pay (BFI, 1999; Sparks, 1994) . The freelance nature of television work means that workers must invest high levels of time and energy maintaining a steady flow of work, through networking and socialising (Paterson, 2001) . When this is combined with an institutional lack of investment in skills training for freelancers, there is less opportunity for today's television workers to develop production and craft skills. The casualisation of the industry has also produced an ideological shift from vocation to contract for these workers. The spectre of unemployment haunts my interviewees, forcing them into developing a number of coping strategies. Many of them have turned the process of navigating
doi:10.1386/cij.4.2.155_1 fatcat:mrqujytg45fx5asjnso34iflw4