26 March 2011
Posted in Radio
The Writers’ Guild has signed off on a revised version of the BBC Radio Drama Agreement, which covers commissions for Radios 3 and 4. This formalises a number of changes that have been negotiated and agreed over the past few months. These include:
- A new form of special abridgement combining elements of abridging and dramatisation. This is already in use for some Woman’s Hour dramatisations and could be used for other drama slots. The minimum commissioning rate is 55 per cent of the main RDA rate.
- A concession allowing the Woman’s Hour slot to be commissioned at per-minute rates for the actual length of each episode, currently 13 or 14 minutes, instead of the “slot-length” commissioning that applies to all other drama and comedy slots. The minimum for Woman’s Hour is 10 minutes per episode.
- Plays on Radio 3 and 4 can now be made available as podcasts. A small additional fee of 1 per cent of the original fee will be paid to the writer. The BBC has just started podcasting a Play of the Week, available for seven days following transmission. The Guild hopes that before long most radio plays will routinely be podcast in this way.
- A growing catalogue of archive radio plays and other material is being made available in a download-to-own format. These are available from www.audiogo.co.uk – formerly the BBC audio books service, now a separate company. The normal list price for a play is £3.69, although most titles are currently offered at half-price. Writers receive the same royalty as applies to releases on CD or tape cassette. New titles for download are being added at the rate of about 25 per month. This is currently a 12-month trial authorised by the Guild and will run until October 2011, when it will be reviewed.
As reported a few weeks ago, the annual update of BBC radio minimum fees has now been implemented. This happened four months late because of disputes involving other unions and discussions are continuing over backdating the increases to August 2010 or making a compensatory adjustment at the next review in August 2011.
The Radio Drama Agreement is jointly negotiated by a Forum comprising the Writers’ Guild, Society of Authors, the agents’ trade body the Personal Managers’ Association, and the BBC. Repeats and commissions on BBC Radio 7, shortly to be relaunched as Radio 4 Extra, are covered by a different agreement which is due to be revised later this year.
Update (21.04.2011): In response to a question posed via Twitter here is an explanation of the new rates for Women's Hour
The Woman’s Hour drama will be paid “per minute” instead of “slot length” which means that the writer will receive 13 or 14 times the per-minute rate, not 15 times as per the notional “slot length”. (Slot length payments remain for all other BBC radio drama). This was (reluctantly) agreed in return for the creation of a new minimum rate for the “special adaptation” technique used in some (but not all) Women's Hour drama, in which a book is basically abridged but with some scenes dramatised. This is cheaper to produce because it takes up less acting and production time. The new rate is 55% of the basic rate for original drama, whereas prior to the new agreement these commissions were outside the Radio Drama Agreement and paid at ultra-low abridgement rates, with only the actual drama scenes enhanced to RDA rates (possibly as little as one-third of the commission). The 55% rate is available if the same hybrid technique is used for other slots, but as far as I am aware this has not actually happened yet.