Coronavirus: Outbreak will lay waste to freelancers

Coronavirus: Outbreak will lay waste to freelancers

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Football grounds across Scotland – and the world – will be closed for months NOMINATIONS for the Scottish Press Awards have been announced, and in the spirit of acidic opposition, the website Bella Caledonia has opened up nominations for “Breaking Bad – The Worst of Scottish Media”. It was like moths to a light bulb as Bella regulars vented their spleen on Andrew Neil, Fraser Nelson and the Daily Record’s football correspondent Keith Jackson. Thus far, the nominees are a fairly predictable checklist of the journalists that have angered or irritated Scottish political Twitter – but more deeply, it is a salutatory reminder of how unpopular a species media professionals have become. Any past associations with truth and integrity seem to have been ripped apart and journalists are regularly up there with lawyers and traffic wardens as the most despised professions – oh how the mighty of the fourth estate have crumbled. In these feverish times, with Covid-19 laying siege on public life, closing down public events, threatening schools and casting a macabre shroud over older and vulnerable people, the media are not where you would start if you wanted to create a deserving case. But I will. This week I want to cut through the fog of resentment and try to remind people of what life is really like in the media in Scotland. A small percentage of media workers, maybe fewer than 10%, enjoy salaried employment with sick pay and the benefits of a final salary pension scheme. Most of them work for legacy institutions with a long institutional history. In the main, they are either in branch offices of London organisations, in perceived regional outposts or in editionised newspapers run from elsewhere. The BBC , the Times and the Daily Mail are among the employers that offer the greatest security, but beyond them working in the media can be a much bleaker world defined by precarious incomes, freelance employment and risky periods of tenure. This virus is not simply a test of the robustness of public health – it will pose a significant challenge to the whole notion of freelancing and the gig economy . A few days ago, I had a catch up with two colleagues, just as the bleak realities of coronavirus were beginning to bite. We were still in the mocking phase of denial, kicking ankles, bumping fists and sneezing into arm-joints. Gloria Gaynor’s hand-washing version of I Will Survive had yet to go viral or we would have included that in our rituals of having fun with a pandemic. But across the next two hours, as we drank wine and discussed our various projects, a cold, hard chill blew into the room. One friend, a sound technician, received a text cancelling a shoot that had been in his diary for months, and at a stroke had lost three weeks of work. Another friend, a script editor, learned of breaking news from America, that flights to and from Europe were to be grounded […]

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