Do BBC websites pay for photos or not?

DO THE BBC pay for photos? Bristol-based photographer and NUJ Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) member Simon Chapman emailed this question to Phil Coomes, the BBC News website's picture editor and photographer. Mr Coomes's reply was: "Many thanks for your email. I'm not aware of us not paying for photographs from professionals. Yes, we do receive material from members of the public that in the main we don't pay for, but most of those images are not news pictures and it offers an interaction with our readers that most people seem to like.

"We do however pay for news and feature stories from photographers and have agreed rates with the NUJ, single shots are £69 and a photo series starts at £270 depending on what is being delivered."

This would seem to be in line with the Freelance Fees Guide. But we haven't been able to find out whether anyone has actually been paid the sums quoted above. No-one has told the Rates for the Job site about the BBC news websites paying £69 for photos and £270 for a series - please let us know what you've received via Submit your rates web form.

Mr Coomes' reply would seem to reflect a change in BBC attitudes compared to two years ago, when photographer Pete Jenkins encountered a BBC radio reporter taking blurry mobile phone photos at an event in Nottingham; these ended up on the BBC News website. Pete asked the BBC why they were using these "truly appalling" shots instead of quality work from freelances. He was told categorically that the BBC do not pay for web site pics.

BBC Online websites in the "regions" haven't had a budget for freelance shifts for nearly three years. According to our source, it's only "network" online producers, those in London or Birmingham, who are authorised to pay for images. Newsnight can pay fees, but it seems that Spotlight South West or Look East can't, don't or won't pay.

Our regional source felt that BBC regional news desks are encouraged to spend time rummaging through library shots and using the flat-rate contract they have with PA and Getty, rather than force the BBC to buy anything in from freelances. We've also heard reports from colleagues doing shifts with BBC news websites that staff there hadn't been particularly well trained in negotiating licences for re-use or selling on.

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