New BBC TV agreements now in force

on 30 August 2012. Posted in TV

Campaign to sign up archive writers begins this autumn

The Guild’s ground-breaking new agreements with BBC TV came fully into force on Tuesday this week, 28 August 2012. All new commissions are now under these new terms, and all scripts commissioned under the previous agreement since November 2002 automatically switch over to the new terms.

Later this autumn there will be a massive mail-out to almost 11,000 writers and estates commissioned since the origins of the BBC up to 2002 in which the Guild, agents and the BBC will advise switching to the new terms in most cases (some writers of highly successful shows may be better advised to remain on the old terms – if in doubt consult your agent and/or the Guild).

There are three new agreements, which have been posted in the Rates & Agreements section of the Guild website:

Television Script Agreement: This is the successor to many previous agreements between the Guild and the BBC over the decades and sets out the minimum terms for most mainstream drama and sitcom contracts – not only minimum fees, but also advances, repeat fees, credits, pension rights and much more.

General Script Agreement: A new agreement closely modelled on the TSA which extends Guild terms to broadcast scripts under 15 minutes, material commissioned primarily for online use, drama within documentaries, some animation, and other areas.

Sketch Agreement: This is a completely re-drafted agreement, replacing an obsolete contract after many years trying to bring rewards for sketch writing in line with the modern TV and entertainment industry.

The new system will bring writers extra payments when their work proves popular on the BBC iPlayer, thanks to a new service – Writers Digital Payments (WDP) – set up jointly by the Guild and the agents’ trade body, the Personal Managers’ Association. When TV programmes are accessed online, the writer will be paid in proportion to the number of viewers who decide to watch them. This form of TV watching is expected to grow massively now that the latest Smart TVs and YouView boxes will enable millions of viewers to access online programmes directly on their living-room TV sets.

The key points of the new agreements are: 

  • The 15% surcharge on upfront fees that all TV writers have received since 2002 will disappear – to be redistributed both by WDP and by far higher repeat payments for the 'secondary' channels such as BBC3, BBC4, CBBC and Cbeebies.
  • The Guild’s collective agreements with the BBC are expanded to cover – for the first time – programmes shorter than 15 minutes, drama segments within documentaries, adult-oriented animations, shows written solely for online use, exploitation of programme formats and characters in a wide range of live performances, merchandising, etc.
  • Repeat fees on the 'network' channels BBC1 and BBC2 are cut to a 50% residual in peaktime and 20% offpeak, in a move designed to bring homegrown archive material into the increased number of repeat slots, especially on daytime TV. It is expected that the same amount of money will be spread among a much larger range of TV writers past and present.
  • There will be further negotiations to safeguard payments to children’s TV writers when kids’ programmes disappear from BBC1 and BBC2 early next year.
  • Special arrangements have been put in place to ensure that existing writers on EastEnders, Casualty, Holby and Doctors do not lose out.