The tides are set to change for media freelancers with a greater push for better practices in four key areas within the industry.
Hot-button issues, such as late or non-payments and the lack of proper insurance coverage, are among those that the Tripartite Standard on Procurement of Services from Media Freelancers (TS Media Freelancers) hopes to address.
The set of actionable practices that media companies can put in place when they engage freelancers was launched last November.
Ms Jasmine Ng, president of the Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals (SAMPP), calls it “a good move on many levels”.
She thinks that the TS Media Freelancers will make a big difference “because it is important to let people know what the basics, norms and best practices should be.”
Ms Khim Loh, president of the Association of Independent Producers (AIPRO) Singapore and managing director of The Moving Visuals Co., says that the TS Media Freelancers can improve the overall professionalism and welfare of the media industry.
“It is a positive move by the government to encourage best practices and better awareness between employers and freelancers,” she adds.
The TS Media Freelancers is jointly developed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority, 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.
Starting from this month, companies that wish to qualify for grants from IMDA and funding for Public Service Broadcast content must adopt it.
Setting a standard
Support for the TS Media Freelancers has grown since it first started — more than 100 companies have adopted it so far. Such companies can use the TS Media Freelancers logos in their job advertisements and marketing collaterals.
Their names will also be listed on TAFEP’s website, to recognise them as hirers that are progressive and forward-thinking.
Ms Ng says that it bodes well that many companies have already pledged their support for it.
She adds: “If big players who commission a lot of work in the film and television industry here, and the other larger production houses who receive these commissions, pledge to abide by the TS Media Freelancers, that sends a huge signal and should incentivise everyone to support this system.”
While some may be obliged to comply, because they are recipients of public funding for television shows and feature films, Ms Ng believes that many others signed up simply because they believe in fair and transparent best practices.
Ms Loh adds: “It is important to have proper agreements and contracts between companies and freelancers. We do encourage and support that to create smoother work arrangements and avoid any misunderstandings.”
Insurance: a must-have
One key issue highlighted by the TS Media Freelancers is for companies to provide insurance coverage for freelancers hired to work in specific, pre-determined locations.
Mr Ronald Loke, head of media and entertainment at Arthur J. Gallagher Singapore, which offers comprehensive media insurance packages, says that the same moral responsibility that has employers buying insurance for their full-time employees can also be applied to the freelancers they hire.
He says: “In a sense, it might be viewed as an investment of sorts, an investment in the relationship of trust, which can be an important deciding factor, should (the companies) want to re-engage (the freelancers) for future projects.”
Ms Ng concurs and adds that a company already pledged to the TS Media Freelancers can use that fact as a visible badge of honour.
“Any freelancer worth their salt who is approached for a project by two companies for the same shoot dates might even use it as a gauge to discern which job is more worth taking,” she says.
To encourage the adoption of the TS Media Freelancers among its member companies, AIPRO has taken steps to ensure that all freelancers working with them are insured under a special package, launched in January.
In addition to insuring the freelancers, the initiative also allows AIPRO members to enjoy huge savings on insurance premiums, compared to if they were to take it up on their own.
Key insurance types
So, what exactly are these stipulated insurance types that companies are expected to provide, and how do they help the media freelancers?
1. Production Equipment Insurance
This covers equipment that are either owned by or rented to the companies that are operated by the media freelancers.
It protects against all risks of direct physical loss (e.g: theft), damage or destruction to the equipment.
Example: A freelance dolly grip operating the camera dolly hits a light while moving it from one spot to another on set. They are not held liable for the accident and the company is able to make a claim for the damage.
2. Commercial General Liability;
This covers against any claims for bodily injury of other parties, such as passers-by who are injured by production equipment that was operated by media freelancers.
It also covers property damage to external locations that arises during the production.
Example: While on location, a freelance lighting technician arranging the lighting equipment accidentally swings a light into a glass door on the property. They are not held liable for the accident and the company is able to make a claim for the damage.
3. Work-related Personal Accident insurance;
This covers against claims for death, total and permanent disability and medical expenses due to work-related accidents for media freelancers.
Example: An actor sprains his wrist during a scene and seeks treatment for it. Because he is covered by insurance, he or the company can file a claim for his medical expenses
Other highlighted issues
In addition to insurance coverage, the TS Media Freelancers also highlights the need for proper dispute resolution, written contracts and timely payments.
Both the companies and freelancers must agree on the key terms in a contract before any work can start.
These include things like what the freelancers will actually be working on, who is the owner of any intellectual property and what information must remain confidential.
Both parties must also agree on a payment period. Otherwise, companies are encouraged to pay all freelancers within 45 days of receiving an invoice.
Should the two parties have any disagreements, they are encouraged to resolve their differences through negotiation and mediation.
If additional help is needed, IMDA provides subsidies for mediation services in partnership with the Singapore Mediation Centre.
For more information, visit www.imtalent.sg/TSmediafreelancers
Companies who are interested in adopting the Standard can visit https://www.tafep.sg/adopt-tripartite-standards