Published on: 30 May 2024 in Directors UK

From credits to payments: how your distribution payment reaches you

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Our distribution team is dedicated to ensuring our members receive up to four payments per year, including from UK and international sources. But what goes on behind the scenes to make this happen?  

Join Distribution Assistant Georgina Trott as she shines a light on the hard work of the people at the centre of our distribution administration, helping turn eligible credits into payments. 

What’s on TV? 

To ensure our members are properly compensated for use of their work, our Distribution team rigorously monitor UK broadcasting. I’m responsible for reporting everything shown on BBC Two across the year, uncovering all possible opportunities for renumeration to our members in the process. 

For reasons that will soon become clear, each of the five Distribution Assistants in the Distribution team oversees a main UK channel — BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 as well as content on some other eligible channels like ITV2 and Sky Atlantic. As a result, we become experts in the patterns and trends of our assigned channels, growing well-acquainted with the recurring directors to whom Directors UK’s distribution payments provide some financial relief.  

Contrary to what you may think, we can’t just watch on catch up to see a specific channel’s content once it’s already been broadcast and we don’t get everything we need reported to us. Instead, several different sources, including off-air recordings, archives and listing sites, are used to piece together an accurate picture of our members’ output.  

Monitoring what’s broadcast on TV is the backbone of our UK distribution payments. Therefore, consistent efforts are essential to staying on top of the constant stream of broadcasting. To give you an idea of the scale of the UK broadcasting data we report and process, for our 2022-2023 distribution, I recorded the transmission of nearly 9,000 thousand individual titles broadcast on Channel 5 (including repeats).

What happens next? 

Monitoring UK broadcaster data is just one aspect of our work when it comes to UK distributions. Distribution Reporting Manager Joe Carroll is also in constant conversation with UK broadcasters and producers who report their secondary uses of your work to us. This means the broadcasters outline eligible transmissions of your directed programmes on UK channels and the producers tell us what they’ve sold more broadly in the UK and overseas. This essential information is then used to vet and build on the data collected from TV monitoring to ensure we’re using the most accurate and wide-reaching data possible to maximise the financial distribution and fill in any gaps in the reported data. This is also one of the reasons why we collect the data ourselves through monitoring. 

Once we have this data, Distribution Manager Rich Anderson alongside Joe and Director of Distribution Sim Cammarota work through the information provided, formatting and preparing the spreadsheets which are shared between us Distribution Assistants. Once we’ve automatically matched as many titles as we can, we then closely examine each of the remaining thousands of uses reported in these elaborate spreadsheets, methodically connecting each reported title to a work in our database or researching and adding each missing programme’s data — a task that needs keen attention to detail and focus as we make sure each programme meets our criteria and isn’t duplicated. Once this is done, the spreadsheet goes back to Rich for further review and to address queries, building another layer of accuracy checks into this process. 

You might assume that our UK distribution process is automated. Although we automate as much as we can, due to the complexity, variety and quality of the data involved we’ll always need to research and verify programmes that don’t match automatically or verify complex director credits. We also need to ensure that the reported programmes meet the eligibility criteria — these are all administered by our team of just eleven people. In our 2024 UK distribution, our small team compensated directors by £11.2 million for over 61,000 individual titles, testifying to the scale of the hard work by the team behind the scenes.  

What about the International Distribution? 

As a member, you’ll be aware that one of your potential sources of income is our agreements with sister organisations in other territories. To distribute these payments, we depend on data from international collecting societies to identify which programmes have been broadcast in their territories. So, how is this different from our UK distribution process? 

Our Head of International Nikki Hopper and our International Officer Nick Roberts receive extensive data for up to 28 international sister societies. Many societies require us to register programmes or films directed by our members before they’ll pay us – often this takes the form of long lists of titles with varying data that we must work through to identify anything directed by our members. While some reports only identify potential UK transmissions, which is great, others might enclose absolutely everything broadcast in that territory in that period from which we then need to find those directed by our members, challenging our collective eye for detail in the process! Again, this is why it’s important for us to collect as much information as we can about our members’ works through our monitoring. 

Once done, many societies will report the specific payments due per work when paying us, as this is allocated by them under their own internal distribution policy. However, we use our own distribution scheme to allocate payments for those who don’t. Either way, once received, Nikki and Nick prepare and format the information on the spreadsheets, which are assigned to us Distribution Assistants to undertake further research. 

This can be a tricky process involving a degree of detective work. The reports we receive from international collecting societies vary in detail and accuracy. Most reports are also in a society’s native language, requiring investigation into translated or altogether changed titles for films and TV series. 

How does this all turn into payments? 

During the final stages of the UK and international distributions, we consolidate all the data we've collected to determine what each eligible director is entitled to. Our intelligent database matches all the information we have gathered regarding secondary uses against our records to finally allocate payments. Anything that still cannot be matched is manually verified and we run some final checks on the data at this stage to serve as the ultimate checkpoint for accuracy in the distribution process. 

The UK and international distributions require slightly different systems of approach when it comes to allocating payments. Through the course of processing all the UK data, points will be allocated to each line on a spreadsheet. The points allocation takes into account:

• the type of work
• the length of the work 
• the nature of the secondary exploitation.  

Once all processing has been completed, Sim, Rich and Distribution Officer Ifan Davies will carry out final checks across all listings to ensure that there doesn’t seem to be any inaccurate data, for example mismatched works, work durations that are too long or too short, incorrect genres or any works that do not fall within the distribution rules. Once checked, the spreadsheet listings are locked so that no further changes can be made.  

Once complete, points are then converted into payments, with each eligible member getting a payment based on the total points allocated to their programme. 

The international distribution uses a slightly different points scheme and allocates payments earlier in proceedings. The processes outlined occur over the course of a year, reliably providing either UK or international payments four times a year.  

Every payment distributed for a secondary use of your work has been examined at least twice by me or one of the other Distribution Assistants. To put this into perspective, in our most recent international distribution, we collectively processed more than 304,000 individual lines of data — and that’s not including anything that didn’t qualify for payment on this occasion.  

How can I help? 

Our distributions and diligent work in our Distribution team rely on collective efforts and collaboration from everyone in the Directors UK network.    

Now you’ve been shown behind the scenes, you might be wondering what you can do to help:

• Make sure to update and regularly check your registered works with us and ensure you double check the accuracy of the information you’ve provided as this is a valuable resource for our team to back up any payments due 
• Provide details of your co-directors when registering your works with us so that they can receive any distribution payments that might be due to them as well  
• Keep an eye on your contact and bank details in your member profile to make sure they are up to date, so our payments reach you promptly.

In between UK or international distributions, our team also researches non-member directors who might be entitled to renumeration and working with the Membership team to ensure they receive any distribution payments that could be owed to them. This is particularly important during challenging times in our industry, when distribution payments can provide a degree of financial relief or support. 

Searching for non-member directors is where your help comes in. We publish our Unregistered Directors list after each distribution, and you can look through this list to see if you recognise anyone who might be missing out on these payments as well as the other benefits that come with being a Directors UK member – it’s a great way of helping us expand our community and provide a level of financial relief to as many directors as we can. 

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