Two-thirds of UK media workers have suffered financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The survey also reports that freelances have been particularly affected, citing that a third of freelances said their work had dried up completely. Of the freelance respondents, a third said they do not expect their incomes to improve until next year.
More than 1,200 members of the journalists’ union responded to the survey which showed how the pandemic and lockdown has affected household income: 18 per cent of members reported suffering between an 80-100 per cent drop in income.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This survey reveals how NUJ members are suffering severe hardship and anxiety as a result of cancelled work and deferred commissions, furloughs and pay cuts. For many, however, it feels like the eye of the storm, with more pain to come unless meaningful and urgent intervention is secured to support our industry and the journalists and media workers carrying out a vital public service.”
Alongside the survey, the NUJ published comments from journalists who have reported finding it difficult to gain access to information from representatives of public services as press officers have been furloughed or there are fewer working.
The union reports members have felt concerned that public organisations such as councils, hospitals and the government cannot be scrutinised during this crucial time.
Two journalists commented that “NHS comms teams are not enabling interviews with healthcare staff” and “NHS interaction is non-existent”.
Another said, “Police have been reluctant to ‘interpret government statements’ and give answers for lockdown exemptions and the local council is slow to answer queries.”
The NUJ has been setting out measures to assist media workers with their concerns for the current crisis and the future in its News Recovery Plan, From Health Crisis to Good News.
The union sees this as a vital tool – as members were also quizzed on their concerns for future employment: more than one in eight feared the crisis will lead to redundancies at their workplace.
Freelances also expressed concern here, with 39 per cent saying they did not expect work opportunities to improve for three to six months and 16 per cent saying they do not expect to make a living at all following the pandemic.
The NUJ has been at the forefront of a campaign calling on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make provisions for #ForgottenFreelances.
Some freelances doing shifts for newspapers, magazines and publishers are under the PAYE system and thus eligible for the Job Retention Scheme to cover 80 per cent of their wages. The Chancellor has today said he will extend his furlough scheme by four months until the end of October.
However, the survey showed that 5.5 per cent of respondents said the company they worked for had refused to put freelances under the government job retention scheme.
The union has published guidance on its website for freelances who have not received financial assistance during the crisis.
Further information about the survey can be found here.