Kerala Union of Working Journalists

Younger,cheaper journalists wanted

A new report by the International Federation of Journalists highlights a worldwide trend of experienced senior staff being replaced by younger graduates who are often employed on a casual or freelance basis and on less pay.

The report, entitled The Changing Nature of Work: A Global Survey, polled 41 journalists’ organisations in 38 countries that are affiliated to the IFJ, which includes the National Union of Journalists in the UK.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White (pictured) said the survey showed that freelances, casuals, short-term workers on rolling contracts and temporary workers make up around 30 per cent of the membership of IFJ affiliates and this rising trend was setting new challenges in the battle to maintain high-quality journalism.

White said: “If journalists’ employment is precarious and threatened, it is harder for them to resist pressure to shape stories to satisfy governments or commercial interests, it harder for them to carry out investigative journalism and harder to challenge management’s editorial line.”

The report also documents a trend toward the privatisation of state media and said younger journalists were being hired in new areas of employment, including new media and some areas of the developing world where media ownership is expanding. As a result, journalists’ average rate of pay appears to have declined in real terms over the past five years.

Insecurity in employment and a lower rate of pay appears to be having a negative impact on the quality of editorial content and may be jeopardising the media’s role as a watchdog for society, the report says.

Among the key findings are:

An increasing privatisation of state-owned media and employment of younger, less qualified journalists at lower wages.

More than half of IFJ affiliates (53.6 per cent) reported that the average rate of pay for journalists had either decreased or significantly decreased in real terms over the past five years. Only 14.6 peer cent said there had been an increase in real terms.
Only 12.2 per cent of freelances had maternity leave benefits, and only 9.8 per cent were entitled to sick leave and holiday pay.

More than three-quarters (75.6 per cent) of IFJ affiliates worry that editorial content is affected by the nature of the employment relationship, specifically highlighting timid reporting due to insecure employment; a decline in critical, investigative reporting; bland news coverage due to media concentration and government pressure; and pressure on ethical reporting due to low wages.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the IFJ website (PDF).


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