Reach, publisher of the Mirror, Express and Star newspapers, is pursuing compensation claims with UK press agencies over mistakes in news content that led to legal proceedings against it.
The group has demanded damages from at least three news outfits running into several thousands of pounds over disputed articles or images, according to the National Association of Press Agencies.
One agency is said to be facing a demand for £14,000 and another for £4,000 from Reach – in both cases the issue is understood to relate to a picture with a mistaken ID.
Another agency was sent the bill – including legal costs – for a compensation payout agreed in private with a complainant by lawyers acting for Reach.
NAPA, which represents 70 independent freelance organisations across the UK, has called on Reach to reconsider its stance.
NAPA chairman Jon Harris said: “It’s extremely concerning to hear these horror stories from our members especially when many of these agencies are run 24/7 on a shoestring…
“The reality for agencies is the financial rewards of filing copy and pictures to newspapers has sunk to the lowest it possibly can, but I’m afraid the stakes for filing content to Reach has suddenly become eye wateringly high.
“Agency content is often described as the lifeblood of an editor’s daily newslist, but some agency principals I have spoken have already said they are thinking twice about sending content to Reach due to what they see as draconian treatment.”
Reach declined to comment when approached by Press Gazette.
The move by Reach comes amid reports freelances are being told jobs commissioned by a Reach publication will be shared with other titles in their stable and at no extra financial benefit to them.
Some have also said the company have told them any exclusive content they offer to a Reach publication will be shared with its other titles at a fraction of the fee asked for, NAPA has said.
Most press agencies are paid by newspapers and websites on a “pay on publication” basis for submitted copy and pictures, but say space rates have barely increased since the 1970s.
The Mirror online currently pays agencies £60 for a words and pictures package – the lowest amongst national newspaper websites.
Reach, formerly Trinity Mirror, bought the Express and Star newspapers last year for £127m. It now owns seven national newspaper titles, of which four are dailies and three are Sundays.
The company also publishes a number of regional dailies, including the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, and Birmingham Mail.
Reach declined to comment.