Why do workers leave the UK television industry? Insights into the sustainability of creative working lives

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Much has been researched and written about the challenges facing entry-level and aspiring workers in the highly competitive media industries. Less is known about those who decide to leave established TV careers to pursue other avenues. While the UK trade press reflects on surveys indicating concerning levels of harassment in the sector, the trade union focuses on long working hours, and the government introduces its ‘Good Work Plan’ to address the challenges of flexible modern working, this paper considers the experiences of those who have decided that enough is enough.
It presents the preliminary findings of an ongoing 2018 research project interviewing professionals who decided to move on from various roles in the UK TV industry to careers in other sectors. This project explores the sustainability (in career terms) of precarious project-based work in the political economy of the creative industries. It examines the possibilities for career-long 'good work', while also investigating any injustice perpetuated in terms of opportunity for career progression in the face of self-exploitation, especially for women. It examines the individuation of media industry workers, the levels of self-identification with work, the sacrifices they invest for the sake of self-realisation, and the potential feelings of self-blame when unsuccessful in realising their aspirations in these sectors. Findings also have implications for human relations and management studies, where the literature on career transition and psychological identity highlights a sense of bereavement and loss encountered by those who are forced to change career, especially those whose identity as a creative 'artist' is closely tied to the artistic field of work which they are required to leave behind.
The paper asks why workers leave these highly aspirational industries; how this affects the demographic of workers left behind, the programmes they make, and patterns of consumption; what such workers go on to do; and whether there are societal and policy implications in terms of UK government plans to facilitate ‘good work’ for flexible workers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2018
Event7th European Communication Conference (ECC): Centres and Peripheries: Communication, Research, Translation - Lugano, Switzerland
Duration: 31 Oct 20183 Nov 2018


Conference7th European Communication Conference (ECC)
Abbreviated titleECREA 2018
Internet address


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