2016 computer keys

2016: what does that mean for writers?

By WGGB Chair Gail Renard

The good news is that we start 2016 as a strong and united union. WGGB welcomed over 200 new members last year and this year we’re hoping to raise our membership by even more. It’s going to be a challenging year for writers (when isn’t it?), which makes strength in numbers vital. If each member recruits one new person, all writers will be stronger for it.

BBC charter renewal is well underway and WGGB, together with the Federation of Entertainment Unions, will continue to campaign for a strong, independent and properly-funded BBC. We want the Licence Fee to be used as intended – for top-quality scripted dramas, comedies and children’s programmes – and not to be diluted by executive pay and pay-outs.

The BBC recently announced that it will be cutting back on comedy production this year. To protect this important genre the Writers’ Guild has just appointed a new Comedy Sub-Committee, which will be acting for our comedy members, and their rights, across all media.

We’ll also be pushing ahead with our Free is NOT an Option campaign. Across the board in television and film, production companies are trying to get writers to undertake important development work for free. If producers and directors are being paid, then writers should be too. Writers are entitled to proper pay, working conditions and dignity.

Shadow schemes for writers in television will have to be redefined, and WGGB continues to negotiate with the BBC on this. The schemes were never meant to be the only port of entry into a long running series. Their original purpose was to develop new writers, and experienced writers should not have to work for little or no money on them. Writers on any scheme, whether experienced or just starting out, should be fairly paid and fairly treated. Bullying, where it exists, must also be stamped out. And we must also continue to fight for diversity, which makes our voices in television, film and theatre unique.

The WGGB Film Committee was victorious last year in getting writers their fair share of the BFI’s ‘locked box’ system – enabling writers to access development money, alongside directors and producers. We’ll continue to make sure that film writers are recognised as creators, are properly rewarded, and not the first ones to be written out of credits, awards and festivals. This year we’re setting our sights on updating our Pact agreement.

British theatre productions are the envy of the world. Now let’s get them equally respected here and continue our fight to keep our local theatres open and funding from being cut. Let’s stop using the word ‘subsidy’ and substitute ‘investment’ instead. The arts are a growth industry, accounting for 8 million per hour to the UK economy. Our television, film and theatre productions have been playing a vital role in getting the UK out of recession. We can do even more.

Games writing is a brave new world and opportunity for writers. Our goal this year is to attract new games writers to WGGB and to form connections with game development studios. We’re also reforming our Books Committee, which from now on will cover ebooks as well.

This is the year we’ll be forming closer ties with sister organisations, such as the Society of Authors and Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. Together we hope to lobby in Westminster and Brussels under the banner of Writers UK. We’ll also be hosting joint events for the benefit of WGGB members.

Though the world is changing, there’s never been a greater time to be a writer. For the first time, we can shoot our own films, make our own web series and publish our own ebooks. With crowdfunding we can raise our own finance. With social media, we can become our own PR people. Let’s take back control of our work. Let’s remember why we became writers in the first place, and – no matter what else we’re doing to pay the mortgage – let’s do our best to make our dreams a reality.

Most important of all, have a great writing year!

Above photo: Shutterstock.com/Zerbar