Broadcasting Group

Calling all scriptwriters!

As we announced at last year's Broadcast Group AGM, the committee has taken the decision to rebrand and relaunch as the Scriptwriters' Group, to include all scriptwriters, whether you are working in theatre, film, broadcast or digital media. The prime motivation for this is inclusivity, along with a recognition that new platforms and media are providing all sorts of new opportunities for writers of original scripted content. But this isn't just about a change of name. As a group we are determined to address more actively the core issues that we all face as scriptwriters, increasing and improving the ways in which the Society represents the interests of scriptwriters in a fast-changing industry, and campaigning for improvement and change where necessary.

We're hoping to maintain our schedule of evening events, despite the (welcome) disruption of the preparations for the big move to our new home in Bedford Row, and we are already busy planning a May event, as well as an exciting relaunch for the autumn, so watch this space!

The SG web pages are also undergoing a redesign to offer more current news, information, blogs and feature items, and these will be going live over the next few months.

We'd love to hear from any member who has suggestions for future features, campaigns, or issues that they would like to see raised on these pages.

Finally, don't forget that SoA exists to support you and your career. Please let us know if there are ways we could be doing this, or services we could provide that we're not currently offering. In the meantime, our expert advisers are always on hand to help scriptwriters with contractual matters - and we quite often find that the simple act of asking for advice from the Society encourages recalcitrant contract negotiators to look for mutually acceptable solutions!

Elizabeth-Anne Wheal

Chair, Scriptwriters' Group

Noticeboard

Latest News

Posted: 17 April 2018

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Hexagonal Phase (BBC Radio 4): interview with co-producer (and committee member) David Morley 

We have today published our Q&A with David Morley on his role as co-producer to the new series of the cult classic - designed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the radio series and including many of the original cast. Catch up on the series now via the BBC iplayer.

Median earnings of an AV scriptwriter in Europe less than €18,000 , survey finds

A survey commissioned by the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) has found that both young writers and those over the age of 65 writing screenplay are earning on average less than €15,000 annually whilst for those writers at their financial peak (media avg: aged 50) average earnings are at €30,000 for men and €24,000 for women. The report also found that 42% of writers look outside the industry for additional work. The full report can be read here.

The BBC 'needs to think again of its basic purpose': Tony Garnett

Tony Garnett - the producer of TV's most powerful political and social dramas across half a century - has called upon the BBC to establish itself as 'the central platform for a national conversation' in respect to which the organization is currently 'derelict' with managers prefering 'to close down creativity than get into trouble' in an interview with the Guardian. 'Of almost everything I put together from the mid-1960s to the end of the 1970s, not of the [films] that people remember would have had a chance of being made today' - and not for a lack of talent, Garnett told the paper. Law & Order (1978) - a show believed to have facilitated changes to the laws on policing - is to be repeated on BBC Four from 12 April.

Pay increase for scriptwriters for work performed in ITC theatres

Scriptwriters whose work is performed in ITC theaters will see pay rates increase by 2.9% from 1 April 2018 and by a further 2.5% (calculated on the new rate) from 1 April 2019, under the terms of a collective agreement negotiated by the Writers Guide of Great Britain. Those commissioned in the higher bracket of plays of over 70 minutes in duration will see payments rise to £8,952 this year and £9,176 the next. Full rates can be reviewed here

Gender pay across the broadcast industry

Broadcasters have been releasing information on their gender pay gap in accordance with a government initiative that is highlighting an imbalance of opportunity for women across a range of industry sectors. A media gap of 24.2% has been reported at Channel 4; 9.3% at the BBC; and 18.2 at ITN. The SoA has made a submission to the BBC under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to receive comparable data for freelance scriptwriters commissioned across a series of defined periods.

Time's Up at the Olivier Awards

Representatives and activists from the Time's Up movement to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace will be raising the profile of the campaign at the forthcoming Olivier Awards to be held 8 April. The ceremony will be hosted by Catherine Tate and will be broadcast to every country worldwide except China and North Korea through a digital partnership with Facebook, with highlights to be shown on ITV in the UK shortly after the event. The nominations for Best New Play are: The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth), Ink (James Graham), Network (Lee Hall and Paddy Chayefsky) and Oslo (J. T. Rogers). The complete list of nominations can be found here. Update 9 April: The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth) - set in County Armagh against the backdrop of The Troubles in the 1980s - has scooped the award for Best New Play with the play's director Sam Mendes and actress Laura Donnelly also recognised as Best Director and Best Actress.

Little, Brown to publish original screenplay for 2nd Fanastic Beasts film by J K Rowling 

Publication is currently scheduled to co-incide with the worldwide release of the film 16 November and will join, in the publisher's catalogue, the screenplay for the 1st film which - with sales exceeding 418,300 copies - is currently the second highest-selling script of all time. The screenplay to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, also published by Little, Brown currently holds the top spot. 

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'.  

Apple programming

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. 

Podcasting

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.

#MeToo

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.

SoA Literary Estates (original scriptwriting and non-dramatic work licensed for adaptation)

The following productions are currently showing (under licence from the SoA acting on behalf of the literary estates):

George Bernard Shaw: Saint Joan - 15 March-14 April - Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath, UK

Harley Granville Barker: Agnes Colander - 25 April on (3 April previews) - Manhattan Theatre Club at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, New York, U.S.A.

Members' News

Neil Gaiman has been commissioned to adapt Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast for TV, in a production from FremantleMedia. Speaking to the Guardian Gaiman said that it was 'an honour to have been given the opportunity to help shepherd Peake's brilliant and singular vision to the screen'. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman (A Brilliant Mind) will join the project as an executive producer.

Do you have scripts in production, on stage, film or TV? Please let Theo know.  

Broadcasting Blogs and Q&As

Posted: 17 April 2018

The following SoA blogs and Q&As all have a scriptwriting-theme:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Hexagonal Phase - an interview with co-producer (and group committee member) David Morley

Writing for radio documentary - Jumping through hoops - by writer and broadcaster Patrick Humpries

Sexual harrasment and bullying - Abuse and the Poison of Silence by BG Committee Chair Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.

Language, diversity and the power of words - What's in a Word by BG Committee member Jamila Gavin 

7 Tips to Avoid Pitfalls in Motion Picture/TV Rights Option Agreements US Entertainment Lawyer Robert Zipser's tips to help navigate your option agreements.

A crimewriter’s perspective on sexual violence on our screens - Women in Jeopardy by BG Committee Chair Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.

"Often it’s not what’s not said, but what is that marks out the power of a script or the way in which it’s delivered." - Finding New Talent by BG Committee member Hilary Robinson

The debate about diversity in the creative industries is headlining again — Talent is Everywhere by BG Committee Chair Elizabeth-Anne Wheal.

Please contact Theo if you would like to contribute a blog of interest to Broadcasting Group members.
 
Further reading:
 
Members might be interested to read this blog post (external link) that published 12 March on the importance of networking by Philip Shelley (Script Editor, Consultant and Producer at the BBC). 

BG diary dates

Posted: 09 March 2018

The following brodcasting-themed events (& courses) may be of interest, including an opportunity to meet with members from the Broadcasting Group Committee at the London Book Fair 2018

Write a Winning Treatment - 'Whenever you pitch your idea to potential film producers and directors, if they bite, you’ll need to hand them a brilliantly-written treatment to hook them into the next stage.' 11 March 2018 

London Book and Screen Week: Screen84 presents: Bright Star (external link) - based on Sir Andrew Motion's biography of John Keats. 23 March 2018

London Book and Screen Week: Frankenstein: The Reincarnations (external link) - biographer Fiona Sampson will be in conversation with novelist Nick Harkaway, charied by novelist Kim Newman. 10 April 2018

SoA at the London Book Fair 2018 - 'Discounted tickets, SoA talks, advisor surgeries, and a chance to meet and chat with members from the Broadcasting Group Committee!' 10-12 April 2018.

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.

The Committee sessions are intended to follow on directly from the below-SoA talks:

Begged, borrowed or stolen: Using Existing Characters and people: On privacy, defamation and character rights - 'Fancy basing your novel or script on a real person? Burning to write a damning expose? Inspired to write a sequel to “the very Hungry Caterpillar” Want to parody President Trump? SoA Chief Executive Nicola Solomon and writer Ferdinand Dennis will discuss practical pitfalls, legal traps and how to avoid them'. 10 April 2018

Key points to watch out for in contracts, and why - by Mary Hoffman (writer and former consultant for the BBC's 'Look and Read') and Kate Pool. 11 April 2018

We are yet to schedule group events for 2018. Contact Theo Jones if you would like to offer a talk or suggest speakers. For more events, both SoA and non-SoA, please visit our Events page.

When events are live on the booking system you will be able to click through to the full details and members will be emailed full details. We send notification about our events via email only. Please remember to let us know if your email address changes.

BG AGM report to members

Posted: 10 November 2017

The Broadcasting Group AGM report is available to view online. Read the report.