Members from the Broadcasting Group Committee to attend the London Book Fair 10-12 April
Members from the Broadcasting Group Committee will be attending the Fair to meet informally and chat both to members and non-members Tuesday 10 April 13.30-15.30 and Wednesday 11 April 12.30-14.30. Whilst the sessions do not need to be booked in advance and all are welcome please let Theo know by e-mail if you do plan to attend. For more information on the SoA's attendance at the Fair please see below (BG Diary Dates).
Opportunity to feed back on the BBC's draft new distribution policy - closes Monday 9 April 2018
The BBC has launched a public consultation on its draft new distribution policy which, once implemented, will govern how its services are made available to the public - including via third party distribution platforms where over 80% of BBC iPlayer content is enjoyed. As required under the terms of its Royal Charter and Framework Agreement the organization is also inviting consultation from Ofcom, the communications regulator.
The policy sets out a number of conditions judged by the BBC to be reasonable and necessary in ensuring that their distribution partners - including Now TV, BT TV and Virgin Media - share the same incentives as the BBC to invest in and showcase Bristish content.
The seven conditions include considerations relating to 'Quality', 'Editorial Control' (reserving editorial control to the BBC in respect both the content itself and its placement) and 'Data' (ensuring that the BBC have access to data about the usage of its services) as well as 'Prominence', 'Branding & Attribution', 'Free Access' and 'Value for Money'.
For further information, to view the draft policy documentation and to offer a response to the BBC directly please click here.
Female TV writers call on British drama executives to address imbalance of opportunity
Over 70 female scriptwriters writing for TV, whose credits includes shows such as Midsomer Murders and EastEnders, have called on drama commissioners to address the fact that British drama was 'overwhelmingly written by men'. In an open letter 76 signatories, including Bafta-nominated writer Lisa Holdsworth accused bosses of failing to afford female writers the opportunity to write for some of the biggest primetime shows.
The letter follows the news that out of the eleven drama programmes said to be planned by ITV for broadcast in 2018 only one - an adaptation of Vanity Fair by Gwyneth Hughes - features a female lead writer, reflecting the estimation that female writers are employed for primetime drama at a ratio of around 1:9 once continuing drama series are discounted.
Whilst there are many female writers working for the UK soap opera genre 'these talented and hard-working female writers remain an untapped resource' the letter noted, even in light of the major success enjoyed by Call The Midwife (Heidi Thomas), Happy Valley and Last Tango In Halifax (both Sally Wainwright).
Results of research into the under-representation of women in film and TV is due to be published by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain in May.
Scriptwriters established in theatre increasingly drawn to writing for TV
Olivier award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett has spoken to industry journal Broadcast on the trend for cross-pollination between theatre and television (his multi-award winning Doctor Foster (BBC) was directly inspired by his stage adaptation of Euripides' Medea): '[..] it makes sense that we'd be attracted to television' Bartlett noted 'You can reach out more easily'. Elsewhere BBC drama controller Piers Wenger suggests that '[...] playwrights see television as enabling them as storytellers', and ITV head of drama Polly Hill attributes the trend to the fact that 'for writers, switching between the creative demands of a play and episodic television must be such a joy. They're exercising different muscles'.
Former Channel 4 director of programmes and creative heavyweight Jay Hunt is expected to work with indies to commission scripted programming with a distinctly British feel and of global appeal in her new role as programming chief at Apple. It is anticipated that commissioned content, which will be free from the time-slot restrictions of traditional scheduling, will approach the tone of Luther, Planet Earth and Sherlock and of BBC1 and C4 programming more generally.
Bullying and Harassment
Industry groups including Equity and Women in Film & Television have united in support of 8 behavioural principles drawn up by BFI and Bafta, marking the first time that film and TV organisations have collaborated on pan-industry guidelines. BFI's head of inclusion Jennifer Smith has assured the large community of freelancers widely employed across the industry that 'the guidelines are designed with them in mind'. The guidelines can be viewed in full here.
Bad Wolf Productions establishes TV hub in Wales
Inspired by industry practices in the US Bad Wolf Productions have been focused on developing opportunities for studio-based recording and production at their site WolfStudios Wales, with A Discovery of Witches (Sky) and His Dark Materials (BBC) already in process at the facility. The company - who hope the initiative will offer secure work to the production community 52 weeks a year - has been supported in their endeavours by the Welsh government who acquired the site and extended the company a loan to the value of £4m.
The BBC are further developing their podcast strategy as the audio format gains traction across the wider industry, with the corporation hailing their first TV-related audio show – supporting Blue Planet II – a success, with its ‘skittish, [and] flirtatious’ tone setting it apart from the original (TV) series. With 240 million podcast downloads in 2017 BBC Radio are looking to develop standalone podcasts that will be independent of shows or stations, with some of those to be made available via their Podcasting House platform. We are discussing podcasting terms with the BBC.
Elsewhere Amazon's audiobook subsidiary Audible is developing its own podcast strategy to include original drama produced in-house. The organization has pledged to invest $5 million toward the commission of 1 and 2 character plays by emerging artists.
UKTV, ITV and Simon & Schuster are also investing in the podcast format.
Imison and Tinniswood Awards
We are delighted to announce that this year's Imison Award has been won by Adam Usden for his 'strikingly compelling' radio drama The Book of Yehudit, while Sarah Woods has scooped the Tinniswood Award for her 'dark and original' play Borderland. We congratulate John Finnemore for achieving a commendation from the judges for his Tinniswood submission Penguin Diplomacy. Jane Wainwright’s Wide Open Spaces was shortlisted for the Imison, and Jenny Lomas by David Eldridge for the Tinniswood. We are grateful to ALCS and Peggy Ramsay Foundation for their kind sponsorship of these awards. To read the scripts, listen to clips or for further information please visit the SoA website http://www.societyofauthors.org/News/News/2018/January/Audio-Drama-Award-Winners.
BBC TV Rates
The PMA and the Writers’ Guild have agreed a 1.5% increase on all minimum rates for BBC TV drama and scripted comedy. The new rates, effective 4th December 2017, are:
Teleplays: £199 per min, £11,940 per hour;
Series/ Serials: £182 per min, £10,920 per hour;
Dramatisations: £132 per min, £7,920 per hour;
Adaptations: £81 per min, £4,860 per hour;
Educational Drama: £121 per min, £7,260 per hour;
Attendance Fees: £106
BBC Radio Rates
We are continuing to negotiate the annual increment for writers’ contributions in the face of increased rights requests by the BBC and will report further in due course.
London Book & Screen Week
A special screening of Suffragette with Dr Helen Pankhurst (author of Deeds Not Words and consultant on the film) has been announced as part of the festival’s programme of events for 2018, designed to mark the centenary of the women’s vote. The festival, running 9 – 15 April 2018, will also feature appearances by Nick Harkaway and Jojo Moyes.
Women in Film and Television (WFTV) have received testimonies from over 100 respondents to their call for people to share their experiences of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power in the broadcast industry.
The submissions, received across a one-month period and predominantly from women working in TV due to the higher proportion of women working in that media, will inform industry-wide guidelines that are being prepared by WFTV in association with Directors UK, the BFI and Pact. WFTV are also working together with Equity and Unite at a roundtable chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman to establish a set of best-practice guidelines suitable for use across a range of industries.
In an interview with Broadcast (17 November) the WFTV’s chief executive Kate Kinninmont said “Some people have been going through utter hell and have left the industry because of bullying, sexual harassment and various power plays”.
The news follows a similar findings in The Bookseller whose survey Sexual Harassment in Publishing found just over 50% of 388 respondents had experienced abuse. The SoA has pledged our support to campaigns and on 15 November we published Abuse and the Posion of Silence by screenwriter and chair of the SoA’s Broadcasting Group committee Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.
Channel 5 hosted a live debate #MeToo on 22 November after Catey Sexton’s film Raped: My Story (Lambert Productions). The panel discussed allegations from Hollywood and Westminster in front of an invited audience of rape survivors, law makers and support workers.
Contracting on a fast-fee basis
We have received complaints that writers have been contracted on a fast-fee basis rather than Feature, Talks or RAC4 contracts. The Musician’s Union report similar problems with the BBC and we will be focussing on this in the coming months. Please contact us if you have experienced any problems.
Gross not PAYE
Members have complained that the BBC have paid them on a PAYE basis citing IR35 regulations and refusing to correct their error. HMRC and payroll experts at accountants H W Fisher have confirmed that writers fall outside of such arrangements and should always be paid gross with employers being responsible for correcting any payroll errors. Excess deductions should be refunded to the freelancer and instances reported and adjusted by the employer on their next payment to HMRC (within that tax year). We urge members to check their statements immediately and contact us for support.
As part of our CREATOR campaign we would like to focus on broadcasters and improve how members are contracted and commissioned.
We are currently concerned with issues around fair-dealing and are reviewing all our BBC minimum terms agreements, but are also simply interested in the profile of our members - whether you are currently writing TV or film and which production companies/broadcasters are commissioning SoA members. Please contact Theo Jones at the SoA with any comments you may have.