These past few months at the Freelance Branch at the Canadian Media Guild have been unprecedented in our outreach to new members and new directions for our efforts. Since the Branch was created several years ago, its members have been freelancers who made contributions to the CBC. It has always been the goal of the Branch and the Guild in general to be able to expand the influence of our rights and principles beyond the confines of the CBC to other employers who commission work from freelancers.
In December, after months of talks and negotiations, the Freelance Branch of CMG welcomed the Canadian Writers Group into the fold. The CWG acts as an agency for freelance writers, and is headed by Derek Finkle (see photo below), a long-time writer and editor who has been successful in negotiating higher fees and better rights for the freelancers who have signed on with him for representation.
This new collaboration brings all the writers that the Canadian Writers Group represents into the CMG Freelance Branch membership; they will pay dues based on current rates. At the same time, 11 Freelance Branch members who also operate in the world of the written word have been taken on as clients by the Canadian Writers Group where they will be fully represented as necessary by Derek and his team. In the future, we hope that there will be many more freelancers represented by both CWG and CMG-Freelance. A special thank you must go to former CMG President Lise Lareau for spearheading this alliance and refusing to give up on the idea of spreading the influence of the Freelance Branch, and to Arnold Amber for providing strategic advice and financial support from CWA/SCA Canada.
It’s an exciting and challenging time for freelance journalists as more and more methods of distributing the stories we create seem to be invented at a rapid pace; and yet our compensation for this wider distribution on more platforms is either zero, or dropping from what is was a few years ago. Communications conglomerates are making millions as they expand availability of material, but they seem unwilling to compensate those people creating it. By bringing together a wider spectrum of print, broadcast and electronic journalists we will be able to have a louder voice not only with employers, but with governments and regulators who are struggling to keep pace with what constitutes copyright and intellectual property.
As I write this, members of the CMG-Freelance Branch Executive are in regular meetings with management at the CBC to try to streamline and improve the contracting method currently used to commission freelancers, and we will soon offer membership in the Freelance Branch to people who are not currently affiliated with us who wish to avail themselves of our experience in dealing with employers and future programs we’re developing in the way of workshops and conferences. Stay tuned for more announcements!
Don Genova is the president of the CMG’s Freelance Branch and a freelancer based in British Columbia.