BBC-Commissioned Producer Chatterbox Media Despite Bullying Complaints – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: The BBC continued to mandate British production company Chatterbox Media despite finding that its owners Nav Raman and Ali Quirk had at least a dozen complaints lodged against them, including bullying over a 12-month period, a Deadline investigation. can reveal.

Deadline saw correspondence sent by UK broadcasting union Bectu to representatives of the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 describing ‘widespread and prolonged complaints of mismanagement and intimidation’ at Chatterbox, after receiving ‘less than ten thousand words of written testimony from members of Bectu alleging This conduct.”

The letter, sent in February this year, demanded that the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 ‘investigate this matter thoroughly and cease existing commissions while an investigation is ongoing’.

Since then, the BBC, which put tackling bullying issues at the heart of its latest Supplier Code of Conduct, has lit up Chatterbox for the BBC Three reality series. Charlotte to Sunderland, directed by geordie coast starring Charlotte Crosby. Two former Chatterbox employees were encouraged to contact Deadline about Chatterbox’s behavior after reading the news of this commission.

After receiving the same letter from Bectu, Paramount-owned Channel 5 stopped working with Chatterbox. Channel 4 has never commissioned Chatterbox, although the production company received a £20,000 ($24,000) grant from the pubcaster’s Emerging Indie Fund in December 2020.

Along with Crosby, BAFTA-winning Chatterbox has done shows with the likes of British boxer Amir Khan and chart-topping singer Tinie Tempah. The company was founded by former Channel 4 commissioner Raman and former Raw TV, Sugar Films and Barcroft Media alum Quirk in 2018.

In a statement to Deadline, the BBC did not directly address the reasons for continuing to work with Chatterbox, but said the company “does not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment”, adding that all producers contracted to the BBC must have respect at work. policy, and “adhere to our enhanced requirements to ensure a safe work environment”.

“Where complaints are made about the BBC’s commissions, they are treated seriously and appropriate action is taken,” the statement added.

Deadline understands that Chatterbox now has a Respectful Workplace Policy in place to Charlotte to Sunderland, which is filmed in the North East of England. No complaints have been filed since February 2022.

The letter

The February 2022 letter described “disturbing tales of ritual humiliation, dismissal of complaints, disregard for staff welfare, and a deeply ingrained toxic work environment” at Chatterbox from late 2020 to early 2022.

He went on to list “the daily public humiliation of staff, targeting people in need of reasonable accommodations and flexible working, systematically reducing staff to tears, a regular cycle of resignations and round-the-clock work demands day and night”.

“All [complainants] unanimously attest to this from the founders of Chatterbox – Nav Raman and Ali Quirk,” the letter stated, though Deadline understands that the specific bullying complaints were directed at Raman, not Quirk.

Additionally, the plaintiffs, who were all women, “strongly suspect that this behavior is being used to actively obtain underspending of the production budget at the expense of welfare, health and safety,” according to the letter. .

The letter also reveals that Chatterbox was warned by Bectu after an initial round of six complaints from its members in late 2020, but the behavior continued, with another round of six complaints about a year later, at which time Bectu decided that its only choice was to contact the broadcasters.

Deadline understands the first six were made while filming the first season of BBC Three Meet the Khans, the popular ob doc following British champion boxer and wife Faryal Makhdoom. There is no suggestion that Khan or Makhdoom were aware of the allegations.

Bectu then wrote to Raman and Quirk with the allegations demanding they change their practices, but the union received a “new deluge of complaints” a year later, according to the February 2022 letter, while filming the second season. of Meet the Khans and channel 5 Sally Lindsay’s chic slumber party.

The second season of Meet the Khans was ordered just weeks after BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore wrote to hundreds of suppliers with updated guidelines for dealing with bullying and sexual harassment on set.

When presented with the allegations, Raman and Quirk said that over the past few months they had “commissioned a company-wide, 360-degree independent review to help create best working practices,” implemented “a multitude of recommendations,” and “liaised closely with Bectu and our clients, including the BBC, throughout. The company this morning named Rosie Taylor, VP Media Production Europe, as Head of Production.

“We take complaints very seriously and are passionate about continuing to grow a production company that is truly inclusive and has all aspects of diversity at its core, both in terms of team and ideas. that we bring to the screen,” they added. “We value the relationship we have with the BBC, as well as our other broadcast partners, and will continue to work seamlessly with them as we grow.”

Since the February 2022 letter, Bectu manager Philippa Childs acknowledged that Chatterbox is “committed to having appropriate staff, policies and procedures in place to address staff concerns and make long-term improvements. to its corporate culture.

“I have never worked in such a toxic place”

Deadline spoke with half a dozen people who worked for Chatterbox from late 2020 to early 2022, each of whom supported the claims made in Bectu’s letter and some of whom were disappointed by the BBC’s decision to continue. to work with indie.

These people describe various ways of being shouted and yelled at, an expectation to work or be on call virtually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, several people in tears, and an atmosphere of constant chaos that led employees and freelancers to leave Chatterbox Productions in the middle of filming. Deadline saw two resignation letters.

In one instance, a source said they sought advice and had to take time off from the industry after working at Chatterbox.

“I left completely doubting my abilities,” she said. “This horrific time has robbed me of my confidence and I know I’m not the only person feeling this way.”

Another former employee, who worked on Meet the Khans, said: “I have never worked in such a toxic place. They were gathering people for Zoom calls every morning and calling them “fucking jerks” and all kinds. The expectations and disregard for our feelings was just awful.

Sources spoke of the ‘dreaded daily 9am meeting’, when they would be introduced and called out in front of the others. Deadline understands that former Chatterbox employees belong to a WhatsApp group called the “Chatterbox Survivors Club,” where they regularly discuss their time working there.

Another former employee, who resigned from Chatterbox a year and a half ago and is one of Bectu’s plaintiffs, said she “notified [Raman and Quirk] repeatedly that the way they treated people would give them a bad name, but they kept going.

A fourth source described feeling ‘forced out’ after stipulating in their contract when they started production that they could only work two days a week, only to be ‘contacted at all hours of the week’. the day” and placed under pressure that they had never felt before.

“It was the most horrible place I have ever worked,” they added. “I’ve had tough jobs and TV can be tough, but watching people break down in tears every morning and get yelled at on the phone was too much.”

A person who was not employed by Chatterbox but under contract through a post-production services company also backed up the claims.

“It was bull bullying in a china shop and it was so egregious it shocked me,” said the person, who told Deadline that one of his junior employees was left behind. tears.

The sources, who are all known to Deadline but preferred to remain anonymous for this article, also expressed disappointment with the BBC’s decision to continue ordering Chatterbox.

“What does not suit me is the answer [from the BBC]“said the source who worked on Meet the Khans. “Chatterbox now says they’re taking action, they’re just small, etc., but there’s no protection for new freelancers who get to work there. It doesn’t seem safe.

A sixth source, who worked on both Meet the Khans season two and Sally Lindsay’s fancy slumber party, added: ‘We are going to lose juniors from the bottom of the industry if we have companies like this and the BBC needs to take responsibility.’

Bectu’s Childs said “broadcasters have a critical role to play in ensuring these processes and standards are adhered to”.

“For the industry to meaningfully address its problem of bullying and harassment, everyone – staff, employers and broadcasters – must work together to create work environments where people feel empowered. confidence to speak up, ensure concerns are addressed and commit to making tangible change,” she said. added.

Deadline’s investigation comes with intimidation in the UK TV industry in the spotlight, a year after allegations of 20 women were brought against Childhood creator Noel Clarke, which he denies, as well as the intimidation accusations made by 10 people against Ross McCarthy, the CEO of Just tattoo of us producer Gobstopper Television. McCarthy strongly refutes the majority of these allegations but apologized for the “unintentional injuries caused”.

Bectu and The Film & TV Charity are both running campaigns to overcome long-standing bullying issues in the high-pressure industry and the union aired several anonymous testimonies several months ago as part of its Unseen on Screen.

Those testimonies included a “celebrity executive” called out for “verbal and psychological bullying” and a person who started having “panic attacks on the way to work” due to the behavior of another executive.

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