In 1992, TVS lost its ITV franchise, and sadly, the rights to its programme library did not remain within the ITV Network. George Baker discovered that the series was being broadcast without proper payments being made to the actors and this page tells the story of his battle to recover repeat fees for Wexford episodes shown around the world…
22 October, 2000
George Baker, who stars as Reg Wexford in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, is fighting to win back the fortune he says he is owed in royalties. Mr Baker, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, realised he was not being paid a penny for repeat episodes shown around the world.
The father of five was given the all-clear after surgery for prostate cancer last year. “Now I’ve got another battle,” he said. “The Wexford films are sold all over the world, but I haven’t seen a penny in repeat fees and neither have any of the other actors. I’ve gone through all the past casts and made a list of the actors who took part in the earlier films. There are 388 involved. “For some of them it may not amount to much money, but it could make all the difference if it was the only job they did that year. As for me, if I got back all I am owed, I could probably buy Marks & Spencer.”
Mr Baker, who lives in Wiltshire with third wife and co-star Louie Ramsay, is often stopped by viewers who recognise him from watching TV across the world. “That’s how I know the shows have been sold elsewhere.”
A spokeswoman for United Drama, which now makes the Wexford films, said: “The dispute he has is not with the Wexford films we’ve produced. They were previously made by TVS, who sold them all to a company called Saban Entertainment. That’s who he’s got the discrepancy with.”
Real-life sleuthing of Inspector Wexford pays off as broadcaster coughs up fees: 20 March, 2001
When George Baker began to receive fan mail from as far afield as South Africa, Australia and Japan, the actor’s suspicions were aroused. True, his television role in the early 1990s as Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries had earned him a degree of domestic recognition. But finding himself a household name internationally was quite unexpected.
Employing detective skills of which his best-known part would have been proud, Mr Baker embarked on a two-year investigation and discovered that the series was being broadcast in three continents without a penny finding its way back to the show’s original cast. Now, with the help of Equity, the actors’ union, Mr Baker has solved the case, brought the guilty broadcaster to book and secured £350,000 of royalties for the 400 actors who took part in its 23-programme run.
The mystery began in Sussex when Mr Baker was surprised to be asked to pose for a photograph by a group of South African holiday makers. The plot thickened when he began to receive messages from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Welcome as it was, the correspondence came as a surprise to Mr Baker, who assumed that Inspector Wexford was an unknown quantity to all but British viewers.
He said yesterday: “Coming out of a pub one day I saw a charabanc with a lot of South African tourists and they said, ‘Oh my God, it’s Wexy.’ Then there was a splendid load of American lady tourists, from Baltimore and Carolina and all over the States, getting on to a minibus. They said, ‘Oh my God, it’s the inspector’. The clues were irrefutable.”
Mr Baker tracked down the programme’s new owners but they refused to answer his calls. “I was beating my head against a brick wall. They disputed that they owed us any money at first,” he said. Equity stepped in and nearly two years later, the owners, who cannot be named for legal reasons, paid up £350,000 which will be distributed to nearly 400 actors from the series in coming weeks, with the lion’s share going to Mr Baker. “I’m delighted. I don’t like people dishonouring a contract,” he said.
Rendell Recovery: March 2001
Equity has recovered over £350,000 on behalf of performers in 21 Ruth Rendell programmes which were sold overseas or shown on Channel five without proper payments to the actors. The programmes were made by TVS in 1991 and 1992. But when TVS lost the ITV franchise for the South of England its library of programmes was sold and, after changing hands several times, ended up with an American company. From 1996 Ruth Rendell programmes were sold to overseas broadcasters and to Channel 5, without paying the performers.
Equity has been attempting for several years to recover money for these uses and had instructed solicitors Douglas Mann and Co to investigate legal action. Now Equity has recovered money for members both in respect of royalties on the overseas sales and residual payments for the Channel 5 broadcasts.
George Baker has thanked Equity. “I have worked very closely with Equity’s ITV organiser Julie Lawrence in the two years since Equity took up our case and I can say that without the support and capabilities of the union we would not have received anything,” he said.
Wexford star’s dispute over US fees: 7 November 2003
Veteran actor George Baker is furious at losing out on US TV repeat fees worth several thousand pounds for some of his appearances as sleuth Reg Wexford.
The 72 year-old, who played the rustic cop in ITV’s Ruth Rendell Mysteries for 13 years until 2000, told TV Plus: “Equity is putting up a wonderful fight to get repeat fees for the 183 actors who appeared in 23 episodes which are shown by TV stations across America. The problem is that the firm which bought the Wexford library seems to have gone into liquidation.”
George said the fight to get the repeat fees began when the rights to the episodes were sold off in the ‘90s. They were made for TVS, which lost its ITV franchise to Meridian TV. He said: “Those episodes will never be shown on UK terrestrial TV again. No-one seems to know what’s happened to the repeat fees from them being shown in America.” George wouldn’t reveal figures but added: “It’s quite a few pennies. I think the Americans are just playing games with us. We’re told they don’t know where the money is.”
Other actors also waiting for the repeat fees include his wife Louie Ramsay, who played Wexford’s wife Dora in the series. He said: “I hope the dispute will be settled but I’m not counting on anything. I’m just getting on with my work. A dispute over repeat fees for Wexford from other countries was settled, but not in America.”