Now the Brussels Backhander Club are snookering English TV workers.
English TV workers snookered by quota giving jobs to Scotland
IMG is the company which produces the World Snooker Championship for the BBC Laurence Griffiths/Getty
English members of the crew producing the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield for the BBC lost their jobs and were replaced under a quota system favouring staff north of the Border.
Workers from Scotland were sent to England and put up in hotels while specialists who had produced the two-week tournament for several years were told they could not have the work because they were from England.
The Times has spoken to three of the freelance workers, who earned up to £6,000 each for the two-week tournament at the Crucible Theatre. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they fear losing other work if they are seen to criticise the BBC.
One said: “The absurd thing is that this is an event taking place in England. If this had happened the other way round — Scottish workers in Scotland losing their jobs to the English — you would never get Alex Salmond off the airwaves complaining about it. They used to employ local students as runners to make the tea and do other simple jobs but this year they are bringing people down from Scotland and paying for expensive hotel rooms.”
Another said that IMG, the company which produces the snooker championship for the BBC, apologised for not re-engaging him but said it had to hire less experienced workers from Scotland or risk being in breach of its contract with the corporation. A third said: “I was booked to do the snooker but then told the quotas had become stricter and they could not employ me because I did not have a Scottish address.”
About a dozen English people are thought to have been told by IMG that they were being replaced by workers based in Scotland. An IMG spokesman referred all queries to the BBC.
Under rules enforced by Ofcom, public service broadcasters must meet “out of London” production quotas to ensure regions and nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) get a share of the jobs and money spent making TV programmes. A programme must meet at least two of three criteria: the company making it must have a “substantive base” in the region or nation, spend a minimum amount of the total budget there and/or a minimum amount on “production talent” there. It is believed IMG hired workers based in Scotland to meet the latter.
The BBC already exceeds its “out of London” quotas, set by Ofcom at 30 per cent of spending on programmes and 25 per cent of the total hours broadcast. However, in 2008 the BBC Trust set a target of moving 50 per cent of production and commissioning of programmes outside London by 2016. Within this was an extra target of moving 17 per cent to the “devolved nations” to “increase the opportunities for the creative economy”.
The 50 per cent target has already resulted in BBC Sport, Radio Five Live, Children’s BBC and Breakfast moving to Salford, Crimewatchto Wales and Question Time to Scotland.
A BBC spokesman said IMG won the snooker contract partly because it had committed to recruiting from Scotland. “This seemed . . . absolutely in the spirit of our commitment to move production out of London.”
The snooker final last night was an all-English contest in which Ronnie O’Sullivan was leading Ali Carter.