PA to Distribute Demotix Images

15th February, 2011

PA, Britain’s national press agency, will now be distributing amateur pictures from Demotix as part of its news service( Journalism.co.uk, http://tinyurl.com/65lz7tz ). There is nothing new about using amateurs for spot news when no photographs from professional sources are available. Pictures taken inside the tube train during the 7/11 bombings immediately spring to mind. But that example also illustrates why in all other circumstances professionals are required – the first to arrive on the scene there took the pictures that stick in the mind, stood the test of time, and it is those professional pictures that are now published again and again.

What is new is that PA, the main supplier of news in the UK, is now deliberately seeking out amateur work for its professional service. And not just work submitted on spec. Demotix CEO Turi Munthe ¬†told Journalism.co.uk “We’ve spoken with PA in some depth about commissioned works, shoot on demand, the ways we might partner on large-scale events, we’ve spoken a lot about political events, etc.” This takes dumbing down to new depths. Bad currency drives out good. “Just about good enough will do”, taken by wannabes with no day to day experience of how to behave professionally or any understanding of industry codes of conduct.

It is not yet clear how Demotix suppliers will benefit financially. PA’s core business is supplying ” all you can eat ” to newspapers paying annual subscriptions. No fee is paid for individual pictures. The Demotix deal appears to be a 50/50 split with photographers after PA take their cut, but no percentage of zero makes any sense at all. So will Demotix be paid a flat fee? How would that be calculated for sales worldwide? Or will their photographers be paid day rates as stringers? Or then again will Demotix be excluded from PA’s core subscription service, supplying only their additional markets for repro fees?

What is clear is that PA, who have just made staff redundant, will benefit financially from using amateurs instead. And full-time freelances on major news stories could now be facing competition not only from agency professionals, but a sizeable army of PA weekend warriors most of whom would earn next to nothing but who would destroy the market for everybody else. Some of whom will no doubt want to exchange mickey mouse press cards issued by Demotix for the real thing issued by the UK Press Cards Authority. By way of PA? On the strength of Demotix sales? This will certainly be raised at a meeting of the UKPCA card issuing gatekeepers next week. This week, the British Photographic Council decided to write to PA seeking clarification of what they are up to. And the whole PA/Demotix deal will now be on the agenda of the next London Photographers’ Branch meeting.

Turi Munthe, Demotix CEO is to attend the London Photographers’ Branch meeting this Tuesday for a Q&A on the recently announced controversial distribution deal with the Press Association. It should prove to be an animated discussion. Non members welcome. 6pm Tuesday 22nd February, Headland House, 308 Gray’s Inn Road.

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