Freelances in rights and rates protest at BBC mags

By Alyson Fixter

Freelance journalists taking part in a demonstration over “copyright-grabbing”

and low pay have targeted the offices of BBC Magazines, claiming the corporation is one of the “worst offenders” in the freelance market.

The
BBC said it was “surprised and disappointed” on Tuesday after
freelances handed out leaflets outside the offices of BBC Worldwide,
which publishes titles such as Top Gear, Radio Times and Good Food.

According to the NUJ, the BBC is one of many magazine companies that take “all rights forever and anywhere”

on freelance copy as part of their contracts.

The
union also highlighted low rates of freelance pay at national
newspapers, saying workers were being paid as little as £200 per 1,000
words or £110 a day at some of Britain’s biggest publications.

NUJ
general secretary Jeremy Dear said the decision to target the BBC’s
magazines had been taken well before the current dispute with the
corporation over planned job cuts.

He added: “The BBC should be
setting an example in relation to copyright, but BBC Worldwide is one
of the worst offenders in terms of rights contracts.

“We have had
numerous complaints from freelance journalists working on the
magazines, who say they basically take all rights forever and anywhere.”

Dear
said rival magazine publishers such as IPC had “made progress” by
introducing contracts that allowed freelance journalists to retain some
of the rights to their copy.

But a spokeswoman for the BBC
criticised the NUJ’s decision to target the corporation, saying it
believed its contracts were among the most “mutually beneficial” in the
industry.

She added: “BBC Magazines currently operates an
individual, rather than collective, approach to the acquisition of
words and picture rights.

“We encourage editors and contributors
across all our portfolios to agree the appropriate fees and rights for
particular projects.

“How the material is utilised for the
specific job, and in the future, forms an important part of each
commissioning conversation. We are very happy to meet with any relevant
organisation seeking further reassurances that our approach to rights
acquisition is always in the interests of both parties.

“However,
we believe negotiations should remain individual – that is, by project
and between commissioning editor and freelance contributor.”

The NUJ also staged social events in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester to highlight its campaign to drive up freelance pay.

Tim
Dawson, the chair of the NUJ freelance industrial council, claimed the
level of pay for day shifts on some national papers had hardly changed
in 10 years.

“The idea that we should work for these ridiculous rates of pay is unacceptable.

Something needs to be done to take hold of our working lives,” he said.

John
Toner, the union’s freelance organiser, said freelances working for
national newspapers should be earning at least £255 per 1,000 words and
at least £130 a day for shifts.

He added: “The regional papers
are even worse. I’ve seen payslips from people who were earning more
five years ago than they are now.”

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