National's agency rates 'stuck in the Seventies'

A national Sunday newspaper is paying as little as £30 for freelance pictures – less than minimum rate set by the title’s publisher in the Seventies.

The paper was shamed, but not named, by National Association of Press Agencies president Denis Cassidy, speaking at the organisation’s 20th anniversary celebrations in London at the weekend.

Cassidy described the rates being offered by the national Sunday as “horrifying” and lower than those paid by weekly newspapers.

He hit out at the “suits and accountants” on national newspapers, who NAPA believes have depressed freelance rates over the past 20 years.

Cassidy claimed: “The suits and accountants have taken over newspapers and think it is all painting by numbers.

With freelances they put the emphasis on the ‘free’.

“They have cut back and cut back on payments to the bone and they are now drilling into the bone and looking for the marrow. Payments are not only standing still, they are going backwards.”

Cassidy estimated that freelance rates paid by the national press were down by 30 per cent over the past 10 years on inflation alone.

He told media executives that freelances were the lifeblood of the industry. “We are the people who provide the tips, the stories, the pictures and the features that help fill your newspapers and magazines. When you come to a NAPA member you are buying a team who can operate on a story. You are getting talent, expertise and damn good contacts. You are getting good value for money.

“We are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and ready at the drop of a hat to do a job. It is the kind of service in any other industry that you would be paying a premium for.”

Cassidy said NAPA was launching a period of negotiation with the nationals in a bid to try to get a restoration of freelance rates and attempting to persuade newspaper managements to increase their budgets.

He added that if NAPA could not win a fair increase in freelance rates, it would be prepared to “name and shame” the worst payers in the national press.

“We can only continue in business if we are getting the sort of rewards necessary to pay our staff,” Cassidy warned.

By Jon Slattery

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