The film and TV sector needs to take more responsibility for abuse in the industry, the chief executive of Time’s Up UK has told Sky News.
Speaking ahead of the BAFTA TV Awards, Dame Heather Rabbatts said the sector “absolutely needs to find ways in which it can take more responsibility”.
Allegations of sexual misconduct against figures in the entertainment industry, most recently claims against actor and producer Noel Clarke, have raised questions over complicity – whether misconduct by certain individuals is an “open secret” and whether producers, executives and management are aware or responsible for how people are treated on film and TV sets.
Like so many in the industry, Dame Heather says her “link” to Clarke – she was a non-executive chair of a management company that used to represent him, but says she did not meet him – did not make her in any way aware of his conduct, good or bad.
“No, I didn’t didn’t know anything. And nor did any of the survivors contact Time’s Up,” she said. “I know many, many people who had no idea. I had no idea.”
Clarke was handed the outstanding contribution award during the BAFTA’s film awards earlier this year, despite the organisation being aware of harassment allegations against him.
The Guardian spoke to around 20 women, with more coming forward afterwards, to accuse the actor of sexual harassment and bullying – claims he “vehemently denies”.
Dame Heather says Time’s Up, a charity working to end sexual harassment, has made progress since it was set up in January 2018, but there is always more that can be done.
She said: “I do think there’s been progress, but absolutely we need to look laser-like at ‘what are the gaps?, what is it that we need to do next?’ And there isn’t a simple answer. It is only by working together that we will come up with some collective solutions.”
It comes as stars of the small screen get ready to walk down the BAFTA red carpet this evening for the TV awards – but the controversy surrounding Clarke still hangs in the air.
Alex Pumfrey, head of the Film And TV Charity, says safeguarding people who work in the industry and making sure they feel better supported must now be a priority, and that there should be “some sort of industry-wide reporting system that people can go to that will identify and deal with those issues when they occur”.
Speaking to Sky News, she said that because of the nature of the industry, with many people working on freelance projects, “incidents often occur in lots of different places, under lots of different employers” and “that’s part of the complexity of spotting them and dealing with them”.
This year’s TV BAFTA nominees include Sir Steve McQueen’s Small Axe and Michaela Coel, whose hit show I May Destroy you deals with issues of consent and bullying.
Film Critic Hanna Flint told Sky News she would not be surprised if Coel and Sir Steve in particular refer to the allegations against Clarke if they give winners’ speeches.
“They are outspoken people, they’re not afraid to speak their mind,” she said.
Coel issued a statement supporting the women who made allegations against Clarke and has also spoken openly about abuse in the industry. And Sir Steve criticised BAFTA last year, warning it was in danger of “becoming irrelevant” if it did not address the lack of diversity in its nominations.
After the allegations against Clarke came to light, BAFTA suspended his membership and took back the accolade, but faced fury from the industry for not acting quickly enough.
Deputy chair of BAFTA Dame Pippa Harris told Sky News at the time: “If we had had one fraction of the information that The Guardian had had, we would never have given an award to Noel Clarke.
“That is obvious, but we didn’t have that information. The first time that we saw the actual allegations against him was when they were published by the Guardian newspaper and as soon as we saw the allegations, we suspended the award.”