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  4. A true-crime producer killed himself after receiving threats and feeling overworked, his family said. His wife called his death 'a failure of the industry.'

A true-crime producer killed himself after receiving threats and feeling overworked, his family said. His wife called his death 'a failure of the industry.'

Eammon Jacobs   

A true-crime producer killed himself  after receiving threats and feeling overworked, his family said. His wife called his death 'a failure of the industry.'
  • True-crime producer John Balson died by suicide.
  • His family said he was threatened by people connected to a case he was researching and felt overworked.

The family of a true-crime producer who took his own said he was overworked and had received threats from people connected to a case he was researching.

John Balson, 40, based in London, died by suicide on May 17 after doctors told him he was likely dealing with a vestibular migraine disorder, Deadline reported. He died a month after he stopped working as a freelancer due to his condition.

A GoFundMe page set up by a friend to help Balson's wife and their three-year-old daughter, said he dealt with "constant dizziness, migraines, insomnia and pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Balson's wife, Yumeno Niimura, told Deadline that she believes he became ill due to the stress he was under while working on the docuseries "In the Footsteps of Killers," produced by Alaska TV for British broadcaster Channel 4. Niimura said Balson was in "excruciating pain" in the lead-up to his death.

The show investigated unsolved murder cases in the UK.

Niimura says smaller budgets mean freelancers are overworked

According to Niimura, Balson was under "a massive amount of pressure" while working on the show, and claimed he was blamed for a family declining to take part in the series.

In an interview with Us Weekly, Niimura said his death was a "failure of the industry."

She also told Deadline her husband had received threats from someone related to a person he was researching for "In the Footsteps of Killers."

Niimura said that smaller TV companies often have smaller budgets and claimed they compensate by forcing "extra work and unrealistic assignments on freelancers like him."

She said: "The loss of John Balson is not just his life; it's a failure of the industry. The industry can find a replacement the next day, but there will never be another John Balson."

Balson's death raises questions about working conditions in film and TV

The working conditions of people involved in film and TV have been in the spotlight recently, with actors and writers going on strike in the US last year.

Balson's death raises questions about the duty of care that broadcasters and streaming services have toward employees, particularly those working on emotional topics such as true-crime.

In May, Netflix came under scrutiny after a woman named Fiona Harey was harassed and outed by social media users as the alleged stalker in the fictionalized true-crime series "Baby Reindeer."

The Association of True Crime Producers held an emergency meeting about Balson's death on Tuesday.

In a statement on its website published on Tuesday, it said that the people making true-crime shows deal with "gruesome details, traumatized families and friends and working to tight budgets and deadlines.

"It is right that production companies and broadcasters recognize the additional burdens these place on those making true-crime content."

Channel 4 is conducting an investigation into Balson's death, and a spokesperson for the broadcaster told Business Insider: "We are in ongoing contact with John's family and offering them our support.

Referring to a UK union, the statement continued: "we are also in a dialogue with BECTU and have engaged an external law firm to undertake a thorough investigation, which will be as swift as circumstances allow. We will take whatever action is appropriate in response to its findings."

A spokesperson for Alaska TV told Business Insider that Balson was "an extremely talented and thoughtful Director," but that they couldn't comment on the circumstances surrounding his death because of Channel 4's ongoing investigation.


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