UK TV writers to receive £1-million income boost

Thousands of television writers across the UK are due to receive an unexpected boost to their incomes in a fortnight when the first round of Writers Digital Payments hits their bank accounts on 13 April 2015.

Writers Digital Payments (WDP) is a not-for-profit company set up to make sure that TV writers get properly paid when their work is shown online. Arrangements have already been put in place to cover use of writers’ work on BBC iPlayer and ITVplayer and there are plans to expand the scheme to cover other broadcasters.

WDP has no shareholders and is owned by WGGB and the Personal Managers’ Association (the trade body for agents representing writers, actors and directors).

“The amount going into individual writers’ bank accounts might be £25 or it might be £2,500,” said WGGB General Secretary Bernie Corbett. “It has been accurately calculated according to the number of people who have watched the writers’ shows online.

“WDP’s focus is the area not covered by traditional broadcasting. There is a huge risk that writers will simply not be paid for online use of their work. This is happening in other countries and WDP is determined it will not happen in the UK.”

WGGB and the Personal Managers’ Association negotiate with the broadcasters the lump sum that is to be used to pay writers for this free-to-air online exploitation of their work. WDP’s function is not to negotiate the amount, only to make sure it is fairly distributed.

“We have set up distribution rules and to avoid re-inventing the wheel, we have engaged the well-established copyright collecting society ALCS to use their systems and expertise to make the payments, but always according to our own rules,” said Bernie Corbett. “At present, neither WDP nor ALCS will take any commission or expenses out of the money available for distribution to writers.”

The total sum, which is in excess of £1 million, will be paid in tranches to writers to cover a 28-month period (August 2012 to December 2014).The first distribution in April 2015 covers BBC writers. A further two distributions, which will also include ITV writers, will follow.

Above photo: Shutterstock.com/antb