A bill in New York that would link production incentives to diversity hiring is waiting for the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has until midnight on December 18 to sign it or veto it.

The bill, which sailed through the state Legislature, would provide $5 million in annual tax credits for projects that hire female and minority TV writers and directors. Leaders of the DGA and the WGA East are urging the governor to sign it.

WGA East

“Everyone acknowledges the profound lack of diversity in the television industry,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East. “There is no one saying, ‘Oh no, things are fine; no need to take action.’ Women and people of color are radically underrepresented as writers and directors of television, and Governor Cuomo can make history by signing the first piece of legislation that would take concrete action to tackle this long-standing problem. If we want the television industry to remain healthy, to keep offering great jobs to tens of thousands of New Yorkers, the state must take action, now.”

DGA Awards Winners List

Said Neil Dudich, the DGA’s eastern executive director: “Talent should be the defining factor in hiring,” This is an issue the DGA has sought to address with employers for years as we’ve pushed them to change their imbalanced hiring practices. By encouraging studios, networks and producers to discover the talented New York TV directors and writers that are out there in abundance, this bill can be a meaningful step forward in establishing a level playing field for all.”

California is considering similar legislation, and Illinois already has set diversity benchmarks as part of its film incentives program, requiring that all film tax credit applicants must submit a diversity plan that details how they propose to ensure employment of a diverse crew that is representative of the state and document “good faith efforts” to carry out the plan. In addition, applicants can be denied the tax credit there if the production has low racial or gender diversity among its crew.