New York Passes Landmark TV Diversity Bill
NEW YORK, NY (December 19, 2019)— The Television Diversity Tax Credit Bill championed by the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) has been signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The landmark bill, which was passed with bipartisan support in the State Senate and Assembly, will support a study of the disparity between the availability of women and people of color to write and direct TV in New York and the actual hiring rates, after which the state will allocate $5 million from the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit to incentivize the hiring of women and people of color to write and direct television in New York. Qualifying projects would be eligible for up to 30% of the qualifying salaries and fees paid for hiring a minority or woman television writer or director who works or resides in New York. The credit is capped at $150,000 in salaries or fees per person, and $50,000 for such fees or salaries for work done for a single episode of television.
Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said, “We make history in New York. We thank Senator Robert Jackson and Assembly member Marcos Crespo, the lead sponsors of the legislation, and the honorable Governor Andrew Cuomo, for signing the bill into law. This bill enjoyed the unwavering support of thousands of writers and activists who made visits and phone calls to Albany, sent emails and shared tweets. Television starts with storytelling, and our members made clear that this legislation was necessary to make television more inclusive and more reflective of the lives of the people who live here and who comprise the audience for the shows that are made here. This bill will strengthen the entertainment industry in New York and, most importantly, build a critical mass of diverse talent that ensures our industry continues to be an engine of growth and employment for years to come.”
Neil Dudich, Eastern Executive Director of Directors Guild of America, said, “We commend Governor Cuomo for signing this important bill into law, encouraging television employers to discover the full range of New York’s talented directors and writers. We are incredibly grateful to the bill’s sponsors State Senator Robert Jackson and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo for taking a stand on this important issue, to our partners in this effort, the Writers Guild of America, East, and to New York’s broader labor and film community who provided their support. For years the DGA has pushed the industry to adopt more diverse and inclusive hiring practices, and we will continue to fight for fairness for all directors.”
State Senator Robert Jackson, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, said: “I’m proud to have the Governor’s signature on this bill. By encouraging greater racial and gender diversity among writers and directors of TV shows, we are doing important work upstream to make sure that we have relevant, culturally sensitive, and powerful portrayals on-screen that reflect the diversity of our city, our state, and our country.”
Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, said, “The New York State Film and Television Tax Credit has proven to be an extremely successful program as it has expanded the growth of the film and television industry in New York State. Although it has fostered tremendous economic opportunities what it has failed to do is open doors for the incredibly innovative and creative minds of women and people of color throughout our neighborhoods such as a South Bronx. With this legislation, we will ensure that this growing industry also allows for the participation of this talent pool. It is important that the stories we hear and watch on screen reflect the true diversity of all communities in NYS and the nation. I am proud to have carried this legislation. Thank you to the advocates for their passion and efforts and to the Governor for signing this bill into law.”
In his approval memorandum, Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote, “The bill would create a tax credit for qualified production companies that employee women and minority writers and directors who work on television programs by a allowing a new refundable tax credit for television writers’ and directors’ fees and salary costs. The bill advances a laudable goal and builds on the success of New York’s Film Tax Credit.”
The Governor continued, “In order to comply with constitutional mandates related to a set aside such as this, I have secured an agreement with the legislature to conduct a study to first demonstrate the underutilization of minority and women directors and screenwriters who will benefit from this bill. The legislature has also agreed to require a minimum number of days of work be undertaken in New York, and restrictions on the amount of compensation eligible for the credit, since for the first time, this bill allows “above the line” costs to be included for this credit. Based on this agreement, I am signing this bill. This bill is approved.”
ABOUT WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in film, television, news and new media. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS GUILD OF AMERICA
In the 83 years since its founding in 1936, the DGA has fought for the economic and creative rights of its members; protected their ability to financially benefit from the reuse of their work; established strong pension and health plans; and established jurisdiction in new technologies and distribution platforms. Today we represent 18,000 directors and members of the directorial team working in film, television, commercials, new media and other audiovisual media.