New report details “Wild West” of freelance journalism

  • 20 Mar 2024

Research commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) has revealed rights grabs, low pay and barriers to journalism remain key issues facing freelance journalists.

The survey of 500 journalists found the median income for freelances who spent at least half of their working time on journalism was £17,500. Disabled journalists earned significantly less than non-disabled colleagues at £11,250 and 63 per cent of freelance participants came from professional family backgrounds compared with only 19 per cent from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Angus Batey, NUJ Freelance Industrial Council chair, spoke at the parliamentary launch of the report hosted by the All Party Writers Group. Sharing his experience as a freelance journalist spanning several decades, he referenced stagnant pay rates and unfair contract terms he had encountered. “We need rates that don’t stay static for decades and we need help enforcing those rights that we’ve managed to hold on to.” he said.

Supported by findings in the report, parliamentarians heard recommendations including the need for rights and contract education, alongside changes to copyright legislation.

Report findings reveal:

  • 40% of journalists took on work without contracts
  • 47% of journalists allowed their copyright to be assigned to news publishers
  • 47% of journalists have signed an exclusivity clause, locking them out of benefiting from wider opportunities, often in perpetuity

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“I welcome publication of the Freelance Journalists report and its valuable insight on freelance earnings alongside the realities of conditions facing a sector of our industry who contribute immensely through their experience, skill and creativity. 

"The NUJ has long called for improvements to freelance fees and this report further highlights the need for swift action by publishers who continue to benefit disproportionately from journalists, too often seeking weakened contract terms. 

"It is clear efforts to address disparities in pay for freelances from lower socio-economic backgrounds and for marginalised groups must be bolstered alongside investment to ensure journalism remains an accessible industry for all."

Read the report.

NUJ freelances can access helpful resources on the dedicated resource page.

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