New York approves diversity bill creating $5M tax incentive for entertainment companies to hire women, minorities

Ginger Adams Otis

June 22, 2017

Originally published in New York Daily News on June 22, 2017

The state Legislature gave its stamp of approval to a landmark diversity bill that rewards entertainment companies for hiring more women and people of color to direct and write TV shows in New York.

The Senate and Assembly both voted in favor of the legislation, which was sponsored by Democrats Marisol Alcantara, a Senator from Inwood, and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, from the Bronx.

It creates a $5 million tax incentive to hire women and people of color to write and direct television in the Empire State.

But the credit must still get the approval of the Governor and also be included in the state budget.

New York already gives a $420 million tax break to the entertainment industry to work in the state through the Empire State Film Production Credit specifically for diverse hiring.

The Writers Guild of America, East and the Directors Guild of America lobbied hard for the legislation.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (r.) holds a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

They sent groups of writers and directors — including Geri Cole, the only black woman writer on “Sesame Street” and Robin These, the first black woman writer for a late-night comedy show — to Albany to speak directly to lawmakers.

Lowell Peterson, head of WGAE, said the tax incentive is meant to create additional jobs and open industry doors to new talent.

“People in TV have understood for years that enhancing the diversity of writing and directing improves the stories that appear on screen,” he said.

Neil Dudich, eastern head of DGA, said both writing and directing favored a “who-you-know” networking system that was hard for outsiders to crack.

“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,” he said.