Saturday, August 03, 2013

Freelance Journalists Beware of offering work to TCB Media (Nicky Furniss/Bernard Hellberg)

To date TCB Media have not responded or even acknowledged the above letter.

The letter simply asks for the company policy details that Bernard Hellberg and Nicky Furniss refer to when explaining why they 'have the right' to republish work sent to them without permission.

In addition, TCB media still have not paid for republishing work that does not belong to them, and although no agreement was ever made handing over copyright, they insist they have a right to do so. They seem to plead poverty when they commission work, and then go behind one's back and publish material in their niche publications where a typical freelancer is unlikely to see it (such as Blue Train magazine).  They typically apologise profusely when found out and vow never to do the same again, and then they continue as normal.

TCB Media calls itself "extremely competitive" in terms of pricing and claim "No other custom publisher in South Africa produces more pages on the travel, lifestyle and leisure industries." The reason for this is that TCB commission work from freelancers, which they then resell at enormous discounts, and without the freelancers permission, and since the articles appear in very niche publications, like Blue Train, usually without their knowledge. On the occasion that freelancers do find out that their work is being licensed elsewhere (earning TCB an income) TCB have a formal response along these lines: 

 TCB's position has been made clear to you, we reserve the right to republish a commissioned article and images. Since it is clear that you do not agree with this policy we have removed you from our freelancer list and have destroyed any copies of your work on our system. 

Of course TCB never 'makes clear' its position in advance, and freelancer/s 'not agreeing' is only established after the fact. It is under these questionable practises that TCB media manages to be both 'extremely competitive' in terms of rates, and capable of producing market'leading volumes of content (most of it copies of itself). 

 I was recently informed that an article I wrote for one magazine was published elsewhere, in Indwe, an inflight magazine for SAA Express. This is the second time in a short period that I have caught them out using my work in other publications than originally commissioned, and without my permission. The company responsible for placing these articles is called TCB On their website they say they pride themselves in publishing the most travel/lifestyle articles in South Africa.

On Safrea I found at least two other freelancers who had similar experiences, with their work lifted from publications as diverse as a SABirdlife magazine and Property24.

Bernard Hellberg made the following comment with regard to the above: I am not sure why you refer to a Property24 article that appears in Airlink's magazine. We publish Indwe, the inflight magazine for SA Express Airways. If you are referring to Indwe then may I draw your attention to the fact that we have an existing agreement with Property24 to publish article in our titles. This matter does not concern you.
But does TCB media have an agreement with the contributor of the work?

In my case I have caught them twice, articles from AbouTime (now defunct) appearing in Indwe, and an AbouTime piece appearing in Blue Train magazine. 
TCB's response is to apologise, to say it's something they very infrequently do, but then also say it is in their contract, or policy, which they have with all freelancers. However they cannot procide any proof of this policy when asked for it.  I also have a copy of an email to Dianne Tipping-Woods where the editor, Nicky Furniss (the same editor who placed my content into Blue Train etc) calls it a 'one-off' error, one committed by a different editor who no longer works at the company (see attachment above).
I've asked to see these policies/fineprint but either they don't exist or they won't provide them.  I have never signed anything like that with them, neither have other freelancers I've spoken to, which makes their 'policy' unethical, and probably fraudulent.
On their website TCB promote themselves heavily as being very price competitive.  When I asked their publishing director about Indwe, it turns out that they tender to publish in that magazine. They won't specifically state whether Indwe is one of their stable of publications, but if you look online it's not mentioned, yet in their email banner its heavily promoted.

Obviously if you are using an archive of freelancers work - for free - then you can tender very competitively.  But I doubt the ethics or legality of this.
Can Safrea please look into this?  TCB are also a member of MPASA, and would be good if Safrea could contact them.  I also think freelancers ought to be aware of this.  The irony is that TCB are very cheap when it comes to paying for the content they do get.  To then 'license' this work even further, without the writer's consent, in the sort've niche market that the freelancer is unlikely to come across, is evidence of a broader, and more mischievous opportunism.  TCB have gotten away with it because all their publications are somewhat niche, and freelancers are less likely to read, for example, the Blue Train magazine.  

HI Nick

I am afraid that we only pay once for commissioned material after which it becomes part of our archive library for possible use in our other publications.

Kind regards

Nicky Furniss
Senior Editor
Tel: 012 425 5856 | Cell: 083 309 0237 |
Switchboard: 012 425 5800 |


Anonymous said...

Thanks Nick! They're definitely off my list. I also won't be doing work for them again.

I've had enough of the non-payment, late payment, copyright issues, pathetic rates and b-s in this industry. Would rather starve than work for asshole publishers/media houses/ corporates/PR agencies.

Twenty years of freelancing have taught me a lot. One thing I've learnt - ask for a 50% payment up front. If they don't want to pay that, move on. If they default, at least you will have been paid something.

Thanks for listing here -

Wasn't aware of this site before. Very useful.

Read this:

Unknown said...

Very shameful & disgusting behaviour.Had a very nasty experience with one of their directors Diedre Loots & subsequently lost a lot of money. Beware & dont do any business with them