Agencies complain of 'millions' owed for copy

Cassidy: "unacceptable situation"

Britain’s freelance journalists are owed back-payments from national newspapers that could total "millions of pounds", according to the National Association of Press Agencies.

The claim is based on the findings of a freelance using an internet search engine to track down ripped-off copy.

NAPA’s annual meeting was told that there was growing frustration among agencies over a host of payment issues. Agencies claim:

lNewspapers are paying the same rates for stories as they were five or more years ago.

lSome payments are so low that agencies are unable to do certain jobs because they would lose money.

lNational newsdesks are not marking up papers at all and expect agencies to claim before being paid.

lAgencies are told "other copy" was used when they know it was theirs.

The meeting heard that a NAPA freelance member used a sophisticated internet search engine to find 30 of his stories used by one paper in various editions over a few months – all with his byline on – which had not been paid for.

NAPA president Denis Cassidy said: "If we could easily find 30 stories from one paper by one freelance who was not paid then the total we are owed among all our agencies and from all sources over the years could easily total millions of pounds.

"Some papers don’t pay up at all and expect us to know what stories of ours they have used in every single edition every single day.

"Others pay some of what we are owed and leave us with the costly and time-consuming job of having to chase them for the rest. A majority still pay us the same rates for stories as they did five years ago or more.

"Undoubtedly, their advertising rates have risen in that time and so have the costs of running agencies. This is an unacceptable situation and cannot be allowed to go on."

NAPA chairman Chris Johnson claimed: "Some agencies have had to stop serving certain papers to bring the payments situation to a head.

"With the national newspapers who are not marking up papers we are investigating whether their failure to check every edition puts them in breach of their self-billing agreement with Customs and Excise."

By Jon Slattery

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