Sandi Toksvig, the President of the Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), has urged streamers to end their practice of “buy-out agreements” and embrace residuals, aligning with the WGA’s demands.
The former Bake Off presenter is speaking in the next hour at the Trades Union Congress in Liverpool, where the WGGB will lay down a motion on “Streaming and fair pay for writers.”
“The increased use of non-collectively bargained buy-out agreements risks writing becoming a profession for only those who can afford it,” the motion says. “As a result, the writing profession, and stories that are told will become less diverse.”
In common with the WGA, the WGGB’s motion will criticize the streamers Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+ for engaging writers in “buy-out agreements” requiring them to sign away IP and copyright, which means “they do not receive any additional remuneration, even if their shows become international hits, and they cannot use their work to create theatre shows, books or audio content based on their creations.”
The WGGB “recognizes the streamers’ global success and their hundreds of millions of subscribers globally generating tens of billions of pounds,” the motion adds.
The motion has much in common with the desires of the WGA, which has been demanding a success-based form of streaming residual since it went on strike in May, followed soon after by the actors union.
British actors union Equity has also aligned itself with the cause of SAG-AFTRA and is demanding a form of streamer residual in its upcoming negotiations with broadcasters and producers, along with a 15% rise in basic pay and AI provisions.
The WGGB’s motion is one of many being made across multiple industries at this week’s Congress, which ends today.
The motion in full
Congress recognises the global success of subscription video on demand (SVOD) providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+ and subscription audio on demand providers such as Audible. These companies have hundreds of millions of subscribers globally, generating tens of billions of pounds.
However, the writers who create the stories which appear on these platforms are not being adequately remunerated for their work.
SVOD providers regularly engage writers on ‘buy-out’ agreements requiring them to sign away all intellectual property and copyright to their work. Meaning they do not receive any additional remuneration, even if their shows become international hits, and they cannot use their work to create theatre shows, books or audio content based on their creations. This differs from the long-standing collectively bargained agreements the WGGB has in TV, film, audio and theatre, which all contain royalty payments.
Many writers rely on royalty payments to keep afloat when they are not working. The increased use of non-collectively bargained buy-out agreements risks writing becoming a profession for only those who can afford it. As a result, the writing profession, and stories that are told will become less diverse
Congress recognises the valuable contribution writers make to the UK economy and cultural and creative sector.
Congress agrees to support the WGGB’s collective bargaining efforts, campaign for fairer pay for writers working for streaming providers and end buy-out agreements.
Congress also notes the recent Writers Guild of America strike against streamers, studios and producers, and sends our solidarity to these workers.