Beecher puts free into freelance

Beecher puts free into freelance

At The New York Times, they boast of "all the news that's fit to print", but at Eric Beecher's Private Media it seems more a case of "all the news that's free to print".

Freelance art hacks have the Yves Klein blues over an edict from the media mogulette that they are not to be paid for work on the empire's latest website, the Daily Review.

A bespoke-pitchfork wielding mob of high-profile yartz writers led by Byron Bache have signed a group letter vowing not to work free of charge for the website, to be launched on Monday.

Many of the signatories already blog for Private's flagship site, Crikey, on a kinda-paid basis. Beecher, who owns a $2.1 million terrace house in Melbourne's nicest inner suburb, Carlton, doesn't deign to pay for blog entries unless they rake in a certain number of hits.

The pay scales were published on Bache's blog but removed at Crikey's request. However, because nothing is deleted forever on the internet, CBD can reveal how the system works. Blog entries that get 25,000 page views a month earned a "bonus" of $193.50, those with 50,000 hits $387 and so on, with the system topping out at $4000 for a post ticking past the 500,000 mark.

However, the writers complained they would receive nothing for blogposts republished on the new website.

Those signing the letter include Crikey literary blogger Bethanie Blanchard, Crikey TV critic Laurence Barber and novelist and Fairfax contributor John Birmingham. Former Crikey stars in the shape of reporter Amber Jamieson and web editor Ruth Brown have also signed the stinging missive.

Beecher courageously hid behind the skirts of Crikey editor Jason Whittaker on Monday, as did Daily Review editor Ray Gill.

Whittaker said he could "only support writers who are trying to earn a living in this game", so CBD was curious to know how he was going to do this by not paying them.

Alas, his response did not answer the question. Rather, he said, Private Media's investment in Gill and a junior to run the site was "a big spend for us".

He also failed to answer questions about who exactly would be writing for the site, given that those signing the letter represent most of Crikey's existing arts team. Nor would he say how the no-pay scheme fitted with Crikey's coverage of treatment of freelancers elsewhere, including at BusinessDay publisher Fairfax Media.

However, he did deny being embarrassed that Jamieson and Brown had signed on to the protest. So that's OK then.

Ten's billionaires

With Bruce Gordon, James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch unable to vote their combined 33 per cent stake in Ten on the debt guarantee deal at next month's AGM, they will be reliant on Her Roy Hill Highness Gina Rinehart to set an example for plebeian shareholders who might be wary of a deal that could give the billionaire trio security over all the company's assets.

But, if Rinehart goes rogue, there is always another billionaire on the register who might set the right example for other investors. Documents released on Monday confirm Kerry Stokes' Seven empire has a 2.4 per cent stake.

Shareholders will also be asked to approve an executive incentive share plan that will see chief executive Hamish McLennan awarded up to $1.48 million a year of "loan-funded shares" in Ten. He is to be issued shares each year based on factors including share price on the issue date and "potential volatility of the company's shares over the life of the loan". Luckily, the ratings of new brekky show Wake Up are not part of the calculation.

Packer takes a trip

Slim Jim Packer is in Sri Lanka this week. Entirely coincidentally, legislation enabling his Crown to open a casino is due back before Sri Lanka's parliament next month.

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