WGGB protects BBC3 writers

General Secretary Bernie Corbett explains WGGB’s negotiations to protect writers affected by the closure of BBC3 and its move to an online-only service

The doomed BBC Trust, awaiting its imminent abolition, has approved the BBC management’s plan to close down youth-orientated BBC3 as a linear free-to-air television channel and relaunch it as an online-only service.

Fortunately, the WGGB grasped the seriousness of this proposal many months ago and negotiated a new deal with the BBC for writers who are commissioned to write for the new online ‘channel’.

Early this year we made an agreement with the BBC that provides for BBC3-commissioned writers to be paid not only the minimum fee for scriptwriting, but in addition another 35% to secure a complicated structure that allows two years’ online availability within a five-year period, plus a further 30% to cover the mandatory use of the programmes on BBC1 or BBC2 in late-night schedules. Therefore a BBC3 writer will receive at least 165% of the minimum fee, compared to the 110% that previously applied.

The real problem is that the online BBC3 is likely to commission far fewer programmes, so although the terms will be good if you get the commission, the commissions will be harder to get. WGGB has never had the right to negotiate what programmes the BBC actually makes, or how many it makes.

There is, however, an intriguing corollary to the BBC Trust’s ruling, which is that some BBC3 material should be transmitted by BBC1 or BBC2 in peak times. This is not covered by the WGGB/PMA deal described above, and when this happens we will insist that writers get the full terms of the BBC network agreement, including a 100% advance on future uses. We will try to find out from the BBC which programmes will come into this category.