Photographers’ Council backs call not to supply free images to Newsquest's Oxford titles
3 May 2019
The Photographers’ Council of the National Union of Journalists has given its backing to the union's Oxford branch, which has called on NUJ members, friends and supporters not to provide free images to local Newquest publications.
The call was made in a circular to all members of the Oxford and District NUJ branch, after the company made redundant the sole remaining staff photographer at the Oxford Mail, Oxford Times and associated weeklies. The post of deputy freelance editor is also under threat.
The circular, which received widespread publicity on social media, said:
Anne-Elise Hansen, of NUJ Oxford Branch, said on Facebook:
“We call on our members, friends and supporters to stand with our colleagues. Please do not provide free content, stories, reports, reviews, photographs or videos to the Oxford Mail, Oxford Times, Witney Gazette, Abingdon/Didcot Herald, or the Bicester Advertiser. If you give away your work to these Newsquest titles without insisting on a decent rate of pay, you are undermining professional journalists, some of whom are under threat of losing their jobs and livelihoods. Please help us stand together in support of quality and fairly paid journalism.”
Natasha Hirst, chair of Photographers’ Council said:
“It is an absolutely disgraceful situation for a major publisher like Newsquest to make a practice of exploiting people providing free images, whilst simultaneously cutting staff numbers and squeezing freelance budgets. Newsquest has sizeable profits but chooses to prioritise excessive pay for its chief executive, instead of remunerating editorial staff and freelance contributors.
“There has been an alarming increase in recent years of free ‘user-generated content’ in local newspapers, resulting in significant numbers of staff redundancies. Publishers such as Newsquest operate Facebook groups that encourage members of the public to submit photographs for publication. Not only are these images used without payment, those providing the content unwittingly give up their copyright and moral rights.”
The call is supported by the NUJ's Freelance Industrial Council. Francis Sedgemore, chair, said:
“Whilst some redundant staff may be retained on freelance contracts, freelance journalism is by its nature a precarious trade. Freelancing should be a positive and empowering choice, not a further opportunity for media corporations to strip skilled journalists of their intellectual property rights and ability to make a living. The wider public should be aware that the underfunding of professional journalism is having a massively damaging impact on the reporting of local issues that have an impact on people’s daily lives.”
The NUJ Photographers' Council spearheaded the #UseItPayForIt campaign, which urged amateur photographers to seek payment for images published. Providing free content undermines the value of photography, and the ability of professional photographers and videographers to sustain their livelihoods. If an image is worth publishing, it is worth paying for.