New tripartite standard launched by IMDA to better protect media freelancers

The new Tripartite Standard on the Procurement of Services from Media Freelancers was launched by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Freelancers who work in the media - writers, photographers, designers, games developers and others - will receive more protection in matters of contract, payments 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 on Wednesday (Nov 29) 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 games industry.

Major producers such as Mediacorp and HBO Asia have pledged to support the new measures. Games creator Witching Hour Studios have also pledged.

The new standards 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 grows by 50 per cent when freelancers are added.

The standards were jointly developed by IMDA, Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress, 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 payment, dispute resolution and insurance.

Under the contracts rules, for example, companies have to provide written contracts that state deliverables, ownership of intellectual property and payment milestones.

If disputes arise, parties can go through a mediation process. The 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 - and worse - 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," she says.

Ms Ng is co-president of the Singapore Association of Motion Picture Professionals, a newly formed group comprising film-makers like Anthony Chen, Boo Junfeng and Kirsten Tan, among other well-known names. The group aims to increase skills levels and professionalism in the film industry.

She 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.

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