More protection for freelancers in media industry

Measures, effective from April 1 next year, cover written contracts, payments, dispute resolution and insurance

Freelancers who work in the media - writers, photographers, designers, game developers and others - will receive more protection in matters of contract, payment and insurance.

This was announced by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Asia TV Forum and Market/ScreenSingapore yesterday at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

The creation of the measures, called the Tripartite Standard on the Procurement of Services from Media Freelancers, was previously announced in March this year.

"To develop our media industry, we must first develop and look after our media talents, including freelancers in our industry," said Mr Chee.

From April 1 next year, companies must adopt the Tripartite Standard to qualify for grants from the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and funding for Public Service Broadcast content.

It is understood that these grants are a major source of support for media companies in Singapore producing content for films, television and the game industry.

Major producers such as Mediacorp and HBO Asia have pledged to support the new measures. Game creator Witching Hour Studios has also made a pledge.

The new standard aims to promote fair and progressive workplaces for freelancers, according to an IMDA statement.

In 2015, the media sector workforce consisted of 83,600 employees. According to a 2015 study by the Ministry of Communications and Information, that number would grow by 50 per cent when freelancers are added.

The standards were jointly developed by IMDA, Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation, and supported by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices. They target the four areas of written contracts, timely payments, dispute resolution and insurance.

If disputes arise, parties can go through a mediation process. IMDA will give subsidies for mediation services, in partnership with the Singapore Mediation Centre.

Those interested in adopting the new standard can go to the website

Film-maker Jasmine Ng, 45, says she has faced employers who have failed to pay on time. Her woes are common ones, she says. "Within the film and TV community, every single industry practitioner would know someone who has had late or non-payment issues as a freelancer... But most don't want to speak up because they may not want to be seen to be complaining or risk being greylisted or blacklisted."

Ms Ng was among the freelancers consulted in the creation of the new rules.

These standards are "definitely progress in the right direction", she says. "They provide protections for both the companies and the freelancers, and then media workers can just focus on creating better work."

Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'More protection for freelancers in media industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe