A new set of best practices for companies to follow, which will promote fair and progressive work environments for media freelancers.
By Janice Lin
It can be said that freelancers, in general, face common issues such as late payments, as well as a lack of insurance coverage and proper written contracts.
This is, however, set to change for media freelancers under new guidelines launched by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to promote fair and progressive work environments in the media industry.
The Tripartite Standard on Procurement of Services for Media Freelancers (TS Media Freelancers) sets out industry best practices in four areas. Companies are to provide their media freelancers a written contract that clearly details the work to be delivered, ownership of intellectual property as well as payment deadlines, which must be adhered to.
Additionally, when media freelancers are required to work on set or at a particular off-site location, companies must provide their media freelancers coverage for production equipment, commercial general liability and work-related accidents.
Should a dispute arise, mediation should be taken as the first course of action. To support this, IMDA has partnered with the Singapore Mediation Centre to provide subsidies for mediation services to eligible companies and freelancers.
“This initiative marks an important milestone in our media industry. It will strengthen the project-based work relationship between companies and media freelancers,” Ms Angeline Poh, IMDA’s Assistant Chief Executive for Industry Development, said at the launch of the Standard on 29 November 2017.
While the measures are voluntary, companies are required to adopt them from 1 April 2018 if they wish to qualify for IMDA media grants, including funding for Public Service Broadcast content.
Encouraging a healthy relationship
Industry players are confident that the measures will positively impact the media industry.
“Many production companies in Singapore tap on IMDA funding for film, TV and digital content, so even though this isn't legislation, I think there are enough pull factors to encourage companies to comply,” said Ms Jasmine Ng, co-president of the newly-formed Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals, which supports the standard.
“No compliance could mean no government funds and that could possibly have a knock-on effect on a company’s reputation.”
Video games company Witching Hour Studios is an early adopter of the standard.
“The media landscape has changed a lot, and freelancers are a very big part of the creation of media content,” said co-founder Mr Ian Gregory Tan.
“Making sure that they are taken care of, that they feel that they are a part of the industry matters a lot. The standard will go a long way in building a healthy relationship between media freelancers and the companies that hire them.”
Ms Khim Loh, Managing Director of The Moving Visuals Co and President of the Association of Independent Producers (Singapore), or AIPRO, agreed.
“We believe it is a good thing for the industry, and it will help professionalise the work of not just production companies, but media freelancers too.”
AIPRO has agreed to adopt the standard by April 2018.
One of the ways in which the association is adhering to the guidelines is to get group personal insurance to cover all freelancers working with its 35 member companies.
It has also engaged a lawyer to draw up templates of contracts and other legal documents, to which its members will have free access.
A good starting point
The TS Media Freelancers was jointly developed by IMDA, the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, with support from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices.
It was launched after more than 15 consultation sessions with local and international media companies and broadcasters, as well as freelance media practitioners, media associations and unions.
Currently, 29 companies and associations have pledged to adopt the standard.
The list includes Singapore-based broadcaster HBO Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, local production houses Weiyu Films and Beach House Pictures, media agency CreativesAtWork, and the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Singapore.
“This is a great starting point,” said Mr Ian Gregory Tan.
“As the landscape evolves, I do believe that the standard will evolve as well, to make sure that everyone is taken care of, so we can continue making fantastic content out of Singapore for the world.”