Opinion: Why Is An Idea Worth Less Than A Brand?
There’s much hand-wringing about expenses and salaries in the press at the moment. The BBC seems to be suffering such a desperate dearth of ideas that all they can think of doing is throwing money at existing ‘faces’, but the idea-generators, the writers, are still on a pittance. This is highlighted when you consider that the charisma-free talent-vacuum Jonathan Ross gets 6 million a year, while the average salary for a novel writer is between 7 and 9 thousand pounds a year. Ross does the same thing that a great many writers do every year – interviewing celebrities on stage – but we don’t get paid at all for doing that part of our jobs.
It wouldn’t be so bad if – like Ross – there was a chance of picking up other wages in the form of spin-offs. Writers, after all, may have their work translated into other formats. But fewer TV and film opportunities than ever arise from published work. The average short story earns an established writer between £50 and £100 and may take weeks to write. But TV is really only interested in filming proven product; Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. Now we see the BBC’s Hitchhiker franchise being taken up by a new writer pretending to be Douglas Adams because the brand carries strong recognition. The message is clear: Don’t come to us with new ideas – we’re scared of them.