Leading film directors join forces in battle over fees

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The Independent Online
THE film directors Alan Parker, Mike Leigh, Neil Jordan and Stanley Kubrick have joined forces with directors of television programmes such as Cracker and Heartbeat to demand repeat fees for their films.

The Directors' Rights Campaign has signed up the top 1,000 makers of films and television programmes in the United Kingdom to demand that their fees take account of repeats, video releases, overseas sales and sales of their programmes to satellite and cable channels.

At the moment, actors and writers are paid a fee for their original work on a programme, but also have contracts that give them extra money if a programme is sold on or shown over and over again. Now, with the boom in television channels directors are demanding the same treatment. They also want contracts that give them extra fees when a film does well or is released on video.

Mr Parker, director of Angel Heart and The Commitments, and current president of the British Film Institute, is a leading member of the campaign: "As new technologies allow our film and television work to be shown more and more ways around the world, we are crazy not to insist on benefiting from the considerable and continued exploitation of our work. The UK is totally backward and out of step in recognising our rights, and it is time we made a collective stand."

The directors' campaign comes as more and more of the creative talent in British television demands a bigger share of the rewards from the industry. The independent producers' alliance, Pact, is campaigning for broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to give producers ownership of the programmes they make so they can make money from overseas or repeat sales. Actors are also in a battle with advertising agencies to keep their repeat fees for appearing in television campaigns that are shown repeatedly.

Herbert Wise, director of the Seventies adaptation of Robert Graves' classic I, Claudius, has joined the campaign because the programme has been sold overseas so many times that if he had made the series in the United States, where directors get a share of the proceeds, he would have been able to retire on the money. "All directors are losing out by this shoddy treatment, which is simply not acceptable," he says. "As the number of channels increases, it essential that we receive proper rewards for what we do."

The Directors' Rights Campaign plans to lobby next week's Audio-Visual Summit in Birmingham when heads of the film and television industries will meet under the aegis of the British Presidency of the European Union. The campaign also plans to lobby the EU and parliament to force broadcasters to take account of a 1996 EU directive that gives directors rights as co-authors.

Bectu, the broadcasting technician's union, is threatening to disrupt the BBC's summer sports coverage, including that of Wimbledon and Ascot, after conducting a poll of its members about plans to hive off the BBC's programme-making arm as a subsidiary. Bectu, which believes the plans will lead to privatisation, is planning a strike ballot if the BBC does not give it guarantees about job security and casual working.

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