Auntie gets our story in a twist

THE BBC's attempt to use cheques as a means of obtaining all rights in freelance contributions (Freelance last issue) was just a silly mistake... a misunderstanding. According to Peter Hodges, head of Rights Acquisitions for the BBC, this new contract, first used by the World Service in February, was never intended for journalists. It was meant for interviewees.

At a meeting with Mr Hodges on 6 June, the NUJ asked for an explicit assurance that the contracts claiming copyright by virtue of the encashment of a cheque would be withdrawn without delay. Mr Hodges gave that assurance. This is a small but important step forward.

Mr Hodges very honestly admitted that he only agreed to the meeting because Margaret Salmon, the BBC Director of Personnel, gave him an order.

He explained why the BBC introduced its "no repeat fees" contracts in February. It was "very expensive" to administer repeat fees for journalists -- not to mention the fees themselves. Since only a small minority of freelances had kicked up a fuss, the BBC had no intention of going back to the old contracts.

The good news, however is that Producer Choice -- the much-reviled management revolution within the Corporation -- allows producers to... make their own decisions.

So the message to all NUJ freelances who work for the BBC is this: Demand repeat fees. Kick up a fuss. The evidence from the freelance office is that freelances who demand proper treatment get it.

BY Jacob Ecclestone

  • Jacob himself received a new-serfdom-style BBC contract. He complained -- and "within a few days a good-as-gold contract came back in the post."
  • The NUJ and BECTU have produced two stickers which can be fixed to BBC contracts to vary the present appalling terms. The stickers are available free from the freelance office. Members wanting them should write, or fax requests, with your postal address, to 0171-278 1812.

Jul/Aug 1997

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