Latest news — from the FSE Newsletter
November 2001


News from the United Kingdom
by Bernie Corbett


Public spirited. Not.
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain was shocked to discover in March 2001 that its long-standing collective minimum terms agreement covering BBC TV drama had been renegotiated in secret by a group of agents. The giant public service broadcaster and the agents' trade association both expected the Guild to sign their agreement without any negotiations and seemed surprised when the Guild refused. Instead the Guild reported the BBC and the agents to the restrictive practices regulator and the ensuing investigation has prevented the parties from proceeding with their agreement. The Guild has had several meetings with the BBC without making much progress and in November 2001, six months after hearing about the secret deal, the Guild finally had a meeting with the agents. Another meeting is planned and it is hoped that a compromise, restoring the Guild's right to negotiate directly with BBC TV, will be found.

Ten Years After
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain is close to concluding negotiations with the trade association of independent TV and film producers PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television). The current agreement was signed in 1992, so the minimum fees are hopelessly out of date. The renegotiations started in 1996 but have been dragged out into a long-running saga because of failure to agree on new terms for safeguarding the position of writers of original drama. The solution is likely to be a template for a new "format agreement" which will set out areas to be covered in contracts including rights for remakes, prequels, sequels, merchandising, etc.

Not in front of the children
Britain's commercial TV network ITV is in crisis with a slump in advertising revenues and plummeting ratings. One likely victim is children's TV, which is threatened with slashed budgets. The Writers' Guild of Great Britain proposed a successful motion at the September conference of the British trade unions calling for Government intervention, and has followed it up with letters to the UK Culture Minister and leading industry and trade union figures.

Weaving a web
As this Newsletter went to press the Writers' Guild of Great Britain was putting the finishing touches to its updated website. There is a new URL: http://www.writersguild.org.uk. The site features news, opinions, links and the texts of Guild minimum terms agreements, plus a lot of other material. We have even included a code to enable FSE members to access the members-only area - enter the name "fse" and the number "1234". Take a look - but if you find some gaps, remember we haven't finished entering all the material yet. Early in 2002 the site will be expanded to include a fully searchable directory of Guild members.


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