Alison Pennells is a scriptwriter, playwright, novelist and script consultant from Leeds

As a female script consultant, I get asked a lot how much TV scriptwriters get paid. It’s an honest enough question and worth asking if you’re looking at a career as a scriptwriter.

The simple answer is to have a look at the Writers Guild of Great Britain’s rate card.  This handy guide gives the very basic amounts that TV scriptwriters earn.

I worked for ITV for many years writing Emmerdale.  The WGGB rate card shows a basic section for ITV rates:

  • MINIMUM SCRIPT COMMISSIONING FEES Original Teleplay rate £14,629 per hour slot length (pro rata)
  • Series and Serials £11,448 per hour slot length (pro rata)
  • Long Running Series £3,816 per half hour slot length (pro rata)
  • ATTENDANCE FEES £124 per day

The basic pay for writing a show like Emmedale is a set fee of around £6k per episode (which would fit in with bullet point two – pro-rated down to 30minutes).

How much do TV scriptwriters get paid?

But some writers will earn more, as negotiated by their agents – or even directly rewarded for their work (or loyalty to a particularly show) by the producers of the said show.

A standard tactic employed by agents is to ask for a little bit more money, per set of episodes, or by time spent working on a particular show. For example, an agent might ask for £100 extra per episode every five episodes commissioned. So, if the writer has a good agent, and the agent feels in a strong position, it’s pretty straight forward to ask for more and more money for their client.

Now, the other thing that people often ask me about is repeat fees.  On a show like Emmerdale, after the initial broadcast – there will usually be repeats on other ITV channels (the writer is paid for these in some instances – but not all).  And of course, shows like Emmerdale are shown on other TV channels – all over the world.

Emmerdale was very popular in some Nordic countries (they loved the Dingles). So – is the scriptwriter paid for these repeats?  The answer is yes, and that money is often collected by an organisation known as the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society – known as the ALCS.

TV repeat fees for scriptwriters

The ALCS collects TV repeat fees from around the world and distributes them to TV writers (and their estates when they die).  TV repeats are usually paid to writers in March and this year the ALCS they will pay approximately 90,000 members a share of around £27million.

Now, repeat fees abroad are often not a huge amount of money (usually under £50 per episode) but some TV writers especially soap opera scriptwriters have often racked up 100s if not 1000s of episodes of a particular show. So, these small overseas repeat payments can and do quickly do add up.

TV scriptwriters usually earn between £35k and £100k per year – depending on what show they’re working on.  There are at any one time, around 300 – 400 working scriptwriters in the UK. It can be a very good living, but is often the fabled feast or famine.    

Alison Pennells is a scriptwriter, playwright, novelist, female script consultant and producer from Leeds. Alison was a core scriptwriter on Emmerdale and The Royal Today. Her short film ‘Me Head’s a Shed’ was winner of The Yorkshire Short film award. Her play ‘Dirty Laundry’ has been a huge success and raised much needed funds for cancer charities across the UK. In recent years Alison has worked as a female script consultant and producer on three feature films. Alison is married, has a daughter, three doggies and no cats (at the moment).

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