BBC: Better Boost Contracts
THE NUJ organised a meeting in support of the concept of the BBC as a public service broadcaster on Wednesday 10 June at the House of Commons. Very necessary. But the BBC needs to clean up its act when it comes to dealing with contributors. It expects people to write complete scripts for free.
Bernie Corbett, late of this parish and now General Secretary of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, has written to (Lord) Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, expressing deep concern about the Corporation's "shadow scheme" for would-be scriptwriters. The WGGB is the trade union for scriptwriters and allied trades.
As Bernie explains: "Each writer engaged on a shadow scheme is expected to produce a trial script in the same way that an established writer creates a script for production. This involves producing up to three drafts over three months' full-time work. The fee offered is £1000. The rate of pay works out at about £2.38 per hour - far below the national minimum wage of £6.70 per hour, let alone the London living wage of £9.15 per hour."
After sending the letter, Bernie discovered that writers on the EastEnders shadow scheme don't get paid £1000 - they get paid nothing at all. In a recent batch 12 people wrote scripts and three got commissioned. Perhaps worse still, a successful writer who has had scripts produced for, for example, hospital drama Casualty is expected to go through the "shadow scheme" before having a script produced for, for example, hospital drama Holby City. As Bernie concludes, "this is insulting to professional writers of proven ability."