Multimedia, NUJ, freelances

The much-anticiapted NUJ Commission on Multi-Media Working report Shaping the Future is now up on the new, improved NUJ website, and it's well worth taking a look. It has specific recommendations on freelance work, including expanding the union's training programmes, and a commitment to "ensure that no NUJ members see their work jeopardised by journalists moving into new areas".

The report also calls for a working group to be set up by the Freelance Industrial Council and the union's equivalent councils for the new media and PR sectors, with a view to finding ways to promote NUJ freelances for work in new media. One way to do this could be through a campaign to persuade organisations that have presences on the web of the benefits of paying professionals to provide quality website content. Shaping the Future acknowledges that "the instability of the media industry is likely to impact most seriously on its most precarious participants: the freelances... The union will have to try to afford its freelance members such protection and help as it can."

The report identifies new media trends affecting freelances, such as media groups bullying freelances to sign away digital and video rights. It recognises that the union must develop ways to support freelances organising in groups to resist rights grabs without losing work. The move to multimedia leads to casualisation, with minimal staff in-house and freelances, often staff made redundant, taken on as casuals instead. Expansion of NUJ training courses is recommended, especially "courses for still photographers to acquire skills in writing and video". New media training is likely to increase the cost of freelancing, which we should taken into account in negotiations over freelance rates.

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