Who we are and what we do

Writers Digital Payments is a not-for-profit company set up to make sure that TV and online writers get properly paid. We have already set up arrangements to pay writers for the use of their shows on the BBC iPlayer and the ITV Player. In time we will deal with other players in the same or similar markets.

Our focus is the area not covered by traditional broadcasting. Unless writers’ unions and agents tackle this question together, there is a huge risk that writers will simply not be paid for online exploitation. It will just be bought out for no money, and it would be unrealistic to assume that any individual could resist. This is happening big time in other countries and we are determined it will not happen here in the UK.

WDP has no shareholders, it is completely owned by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (trade union for TV writers) and the Personal Managers’ Association (trade body for writers’ agents). We have two directors from WGGB; two from PMA, and one independent director who is a retired BBC executive.

The WGGB and the PMA negotiate with the BBC the lump sum that is to be used to pay writers for this free-to-air online exploitation of their work. Our function is not to negotiate the amount, only to make sure it is fairly distributed.

We have set up distribution rules and to avoid re-inventing the wheel, we have engaged the well established copyright collecting society ALCS to use their systems and expertise to make the payments, but always according to our own rules. At present, neither WDP nor ALCS will take any commission or expenses out of the monies – WDP currently charges the BBC and ITV a fee to cover the costs of running the system.

If you have any questions please contact us on 0333 320 8068

Distribution Policy

Writers Digital Payments receives large sums of money from the BBC and ITV (and potentially other broadcasters and online services) and our function is to make sure this money is fairly distributed to the writers of the shows that viewers watch online via iPlayer, ITV Player, etc.

We will endeavour to distribute every penny to writers, without any commissions or other deductions.

However there are a lot of complex issues to be decided before we can achieve our simple aim of a fair distribution.

The BBC is paying about £675,000 a year for catch-up viewing on the BBC iPlayer, for distribution to writers whose programmes qualify. ITV is paying about £55,000 a year (both of these figures are currently under renegotiation). In order to qualify the programme must be a scripted drama, comedy, or dramatic segment of another programme. It must have been commissioned by the BBC or ITV either in-house or from an independent producer. There are a lot of programmes that don’t qualify because their catch-up rights were bought out, but this issue will fade out over the next few years. Acquisitions of programmes originally commissioned by other broadcasters don’t count.

To avoid windfall payments to a few writers that would not be representative of future sums, WDP has adopted an equalisation process to attempt to provide consistent values. Thus in 2012 where only about 22% of programmes qualify for payment, we will only pay out 22% of the money we get from the BBC. The money retained will then be fed back into the system, probably over an 8 year period so as to achieve a reasonably regular value, meaning that writers should be able to see how many viewings there have been of their programmes and thus have some anticipation of the money they will receive. At the moment it looks like the value will be roughly £1 per 1000 hits on the server. This needs to be read in the context of programmes like Eastenders frequently achieving 1 million hits, and the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special topping 3 million hits.

The rules of the distribution are set out below, and were evolved to achieve an outcome we judged to be fair to everyone. They need to be read in the context of at least 750 million hits on catch-up services in the past 12 months.

  1. In general every hit is of equal value irrespective of the length of the programme.
  2. Programmes 15 minutes and below count as half a hit, because otherwise writers of very short scripts would get more than their fair share of the money.
  3. An omnibus of a number of full programmes strung together will result in each of the programmes being worth half a hit. Technically an omnibus is a single programme so would generate fractional payments to four or five writers, which could be unfair, but also we do not know how many people watched only one or two parts, so we feel this compromise creates an equitable solution.
  4. The format is valued at one tenth of the value of a script based on that format – additional to, not deducted from, the value of the script. Therefore if the format creator is also the scriptwriter, s/he will receive 110% of what a writer of script only would receive.
  5. All programmes with fewer than 10,000 hits will not be included as, being an infinitesimal percentage of the whole, the admin costs for the payments far exceed their value.
  6. If a writer is due less than £25 the money will not be paid out, but will be held in their account until future distributions bring him/her up to £25.
  7. All of the above needs to be highly flexible and reviewed on an annual basis to take account of developments in technology and public viewing habits.

The system can of course only be as good as the data provided by the BBC (and by the independent production companies to them) and, at least for our first distribution, operational difficulties mean that we lack sufficiently accurate information in one particular area. However, so as not to continue delaying payments to writers we propose to operate the following temporary arrangements:

  1. Formats - We will hold back the monies which might be payable to the owners of formats, and they will be paid when in due course we have accurate details from the BBC.

Please note: We intend to operate a similar structure for both BBC and ITV, but at the moment ITV statistics are not as comprehensive as those from the BBC, the amount of money available is small, and the ITV catch up service operates at less than 25% the volume of BBC iPlayer.

WDP Directors & Manager

Marc Berlin


Marc Berlin is a dramatists’ agent of over 40 years experience. He runs Berlin Associates where he handles a variety of copyright related dealings in television, films and theatre, primarily for writers but also for directors, designers and other rights holders.

Bernie Corbett


Bernie Corbett has been the general secretary of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain since 2000. The Guild is a TUC-affiliated trade union that represents writers in all genres but specialises in TV, theatre, radio and film. Bernie has a background in journalism, union activism, and general anti-authoritarianism.

Simon Hayward-Tapp


Simon Hayward-Tapp worked for 30 years at the BBC where he was responsible for collective negotiations with talent unions and led the teams that negotiated contracts with contributors, including writers, for all of the BBC’s television, radio and online programmes.

Charlotte Knight


Charlotte Knight is Managing Director of the Knight Hall Agency which represents playwrights and screenwriters, writers who also direct, directors and stage and screen rights in selected novels. She joined the company in 1999 and took over as MD in 2004.

Robert Taylor


Robert began his career as a scriptwriter in the 1990s and contributed numerous episodes to childrens’ and comedy TV series. Subsequently Robert qualified as a solicitor and is currently a Consultant Media Lawyer at Cubism Law. Robert was chair of the Writers' Guild from 2009-2012.

Lynne Mendoza


Lynne Mendoza is the manager of WDP. She has over 30 years experience of working in the entertainment industry including fringe and West End theatre, at a dramatists' agency and in television production. Lynne has also been a long standing school governor and Chair of Governors at her local primary school in south London.

How it works

Our plan is that every writer will get an annual payment rewarding him/her for the number of viewers who have watched his/her shows online.

It is as simple as that.

It might be £0 (if hardly anybody watches), it might be £50, it might be £500, it might be £1,500. It depends on the viewers. It probably won’t make your fortune.

If you have any questions please contact us on 0333 320 8068

How VAT works

This item is relevant for writers who are registered for VAT. Currently a writer would need to earn more than £81,000 per year from his or her writing to be required to register for VAT. If you are not registered for VAT you can ignore the rest of this item.

Payments that you receive from WDP do not include VAT and are outside of the BBC’s ‘VAT self billing’ scheme.

If you are registered for VAT you, or your agent, will need to send the BBC a VAT invoice covering the amount of the payment from the WDP.

A template invoice is available.

Please contact your agent or accountant for any question about VAT.

Or contact us on 0333 320 8068

Contact us

Lynne Mendoza

0333 320 8068