Writers on the BBC’s long-running series shadow schemes covering Holby and Casualty are to receive a 50% increase to their script fee, following a meeting between the corporation and the WGGB on Tuesday 23 June 2015.
This follows two years of stalled negotiations between the writers’ union and the BBC, which culminated in the WGGB writing to Lord Hall, Director-General of the BBC, earlier this month.
On Holby and Casualty the shadow scheme fee will rise from £1,000 to £1,500, but the schemes for EastEnders and Doctors will continue to pay no fee at all for a further year while the system undergoes an in-depth review.
WGGB general secretary Bernie Corbett said: “We are delighted to have achieved a major increase in the fee for two of the four shows, plus several valuable clarifications of the scheme – it will be made clearer to participants that they are not expected to work full-time for three months, and need to submit only two drafts of the trial script.
“The BBC is providing three days’ training for each writer on the scheme, and the successful participants will be offered contracts almost immediately, instead of having to wait up to six months for the work to materialise.
“This will be a much-improved scheme, but there are still areas that need reform.”
Corbett’s letter to Hall drew attention to the problems that have beset the shadow schemes since the closure of the much-respected Drama Writers Academy in 2013.
The shadow schemes require participants (often experienced writers with agents and professional credits to their names) to produce a trial script over a three-month period. Reports from WGGB members to the union that they were receiving the equivalent of around £2 an hour prompted Corbett to condemn the system as “displaying severe shortcomings”, and representing a “grotesque unfairness”.
In negotiations, the BBC said that budgets restricted by the Licence Fee freeze did not allow payment to be introduced for the EastEnders and Doctors shadow schemes, but there would be a 12-month review followed by further talks.
Corbett commented: “This is disappointing, but we accept that Doctors is an entry-level show where most aspiring writers are less experienced. On EastEnders, the review will examine in detail who has taken part and what outcomes were achieved before we look at the issue again.”
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