Media stand up for ‘fake freelancers’

Journalists across the continent yesterday gathered to condemn the European media industry for keeping afloat off the backs of so-called “fake freelancers.”

This new breed of journalists is the single reason why in every EU country, the number of freelance and part-time workers in journalism has grown significantly.

Publishers that engage “fake freelancers” are “impoverishing journalism,” degrading work conditions and lowering the morale of all journalists.

Explaining its verdicts, the European Federation of Journalists said fake freelancers are the victims of traditional editorial employers panicking in the face of change.

Technology and the digital age, the EFJ argues, has forced inert media outlets to cut spending on editorial work, training and investigate reporting.

Even worse; shifting audiences have brought on the ‘slash and burn’ of full-time journalism jobs, leading to thousands of media workers being made redundant.

This leaves individual media workers feeling forced to ‘go it alone’, in other words become a “fake freelancer” – typically receiving less money, benefits and rights.

Having been rejected as a full-time employee, their position as a lone media gun leaves them “little bargaining power” in the eyes of their initial employer or prospective ones.

Evidencing the claim, the federation said publishers are forcing freelancers to sacrifice their authors’ rights by demanding they sign ‘all rights’ contracts.

These carefully-worded documents allow the publisher or media company to use and reuse journalists’ work in various media forms however and wherever they like.

Last night, thousands of British journalists launched their own fireworks campaign against job losses across the industry and the ‘dumbing down’ of the media.

Other protests were due to be held in Germany, where almost half the nation’s journalists are on freelance or temporary contracts, and in Hungary, where virtually all journalists work outside full-time work structures.

“These reporters and editors are the victims of an industry crisis characterised by employer panic in the face of changing market conditions,” explained Aidan White, general secretary of the federation.

Of media outlets that force freelancers to overturn their ownership rights, he said: “In the process they are impoverishing journalism, sacrificing decent working conditions and lowering the morale of people working in journalism.

“This will only guarantee failure. The forced freelancing of the journalism workforce offers a false future for the industry.”

 

6th November 2007

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