Vague ramblings

A question of bullying

Posted in Musing by Ian Cundell on 2 May, 2013

One of the more unfortunate aspects of the charges of a bullying culture at the BBC is the manner in which the debate has ended up being about the BBC, rather than about bullying – and workplace bullying in particular.

There is no excusing the BBC’s miserable failure to lead by example, but let us be clear: anyone who has worked in a creative industry knows all about bullying. In an industry popping with monstrously huge egos it is all but unavoidable, since the egotistical are rarely wilting violets. In fact it isn’t just the creative industries. All of the so-called ‘people’ businesses are in the frame, as countless sexual harassment claims in the City suggest. These people businesses, by the way, are the service industries that make up nearly 80% of our economy. Think about the scale of that.

Just as the shocked reaction to the Jimmy Savile scandal led to much BBC navel-gazing, the facts as they have emerged point to a much wider cultural problem through much of the 1960s and, especially the 1970s. Does anybody seriously think that the culture at the ITV companies, at the huge advertising agencies, radio stations and film studios was materially different? And then there was the music business…

Anywhere that one person holds significant sway over the future of another (often men over women, but far from always) is a place where a bullying culture can fester and grow. When that sway can be wielded behind closed doors, without the victim ever knowing then it is cancerous.

From the unpaid intern at a very large advertising agency having her work stolen by a partner for their own portfolio, to the PR girl being expected to “take one for the team” to keep some sexually frustrated talent happy; from being used as a political football by warring department heads, to nurses being used by doctors and managers as human shields for their own failures, bullying is both rife and hiding in plain sight.

Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall are the outliers, the grotesque extremes. The mundane reality is everyday and all the time, wearing many cloaks.

And that is what needs fixing.


One Response

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  1. KerryPoppins said, on 5 May, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Hell yes. I think you’ve raised a brilliant point here in taking a look at the far more sinister side to the creative industries, and in fact all areas of employment with an exploitative hierarchy. Really enjoyed this.

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