Read a note from our CEO, Andy Harrower, who reflects on a year that saw us renegotiate the UK Rights Agreement and pay out our largest total sum, to the most directors, ever – and how we’re planning to keep pushing for more.
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Statement from the Chief Executive
Following a long period of disruption from the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the last year has seen Directors UK return to business as usual, being able to focus fully on delivering what our members value the most.
At the forefront of this has been making sure that we collect every penny for the use of our members’ copyright works - the television programmes and films they direct - both in the UK and internationally. This financial year, we paid out a total of £19.6million - over £1million more than last year - to more than 5,800 directors. That’s the largest sum, paid out to the most directors, in a single year.
Our January 2023 distribution was the last to be paid out under the terms of our previous UK Rights Agreement. In July 2022, after months of negotiations, we reached a new and improved deal for directors’ rights with UK broadcasters and production companies. A large part of our discussions focused on securing the right value for sales of programmes directed by our members. We were able to negotiate some significant uplifts compared to the previous agreement, but this remains an area where we will have to keep on pushing to ensure our members receive royalties which properly reflect the financial success that these programmes enjoy.
These negotiations with broadcasters, production companies and streamers will always be challenging and it is critical that we continue to invest in building the expertise and capability in our team so that we can negotiate from a position of strength. We also need to invest in our systems so that we can distribute royalties from new sources as quickly and accurately as possible. It is against this background that I continue to talk to the Board about how we can grow Directors UK’s income so that we are able to make these investments and secure our future.
Over the last year, our membership grew to 8,167 and we’ve engaged with our members in many different ways:
We’ve returned to hosting in-person events including screenings, director on director conversations and networking events - fostering a sense of community and connection. We’ve offered a wide range of workshops and masterclasses in the areas where our members are asking for support - all with an eye to bolster the skills in the existing workforce and prevent directors from stalling mid-career. To ensure that everyone in our membership has the opportunity to attend, we’ve continued to offer online access to the majority of these events and career development sessions.
We’ve represented the realities of working directors – both the triumphs and the challenges – by responding to consultations and being involved in working groups around topics such as freelancers (including PEC’s Good Work Review), the ever-changing landscape of the industry (including the various changes at the BBC and the debate over ownership of Channel 4), copyright, and ultimately, the impact of all of this on directors.
We’ve shared both craft and issue-focused stories from our membership through articles on our website and represented their experiences in both the trade and mainstream media. These stories are amplified through our social media platforms, all of which have seen increased followers and engagement. Our podcast is streamed and downloaded across the globe, and has seen an increase in listens of over a 50% in the last 12 months alone. Our focus is on telling stories about directing that no one else is sharing.
Our support for the Directors Charitable Foundation, which helps directors in need, has continued, with our board agreeing a three year-funding plan for the charity so that it can carry on with its good work as it seeks to grow donations from other sources.
We are the only organisation in the UK collecting royalties for screen directors, and that is really important, as royalties remain a vital source of income for many directors. None of this would be possible without the hard work of the Directors UK team and board. On that note, I’d like to thank our Finance Director, Guy Gibbons, who is retiring in May 2023 after over six years at Directors UK during which he has transformed the financial operations of the company. We are a small team, but we are dedicated to standing up for the rights of directors, protecting the craft of directing, and making a real difference to the working lives of our members.