New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill championed by the Writers Guild of America East (WGA East) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) that will support a study into the lack of opportunities for female and minority TV writers and directors in the state. The landmark TV diversity law will provide production tax incentives to companies that hire women and people of color for writing and directing jobs.
The Television Diversity Tax Credit Bill, which was passed with bipartisan support in the state’s Senate and Assembly, provides that once the study is completed, qualifying projects would be eligible to receive up to 30% of the qualifying salaries and fees paid for hiring minority or female TV writers or directors who work or reside 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, the Executive Director of WGA East stated, “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.”
The bill has been circulating around Albany for several years. It was vetoed last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of what he said were concerns about how the credit would be calculated. Claiming there was nothing in the budget to pay for the additional $5 million in spending called for in the diversity bill. He also said that there were “significant technical difficulties which make the bill fatally defective.”
This time around Cuomo said he secured commitment from the legislature to study the “underutilization” of women and people of color as writers and directors.
In his approval memorandum, Gov. 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.”