Photographic agencies that supply pictures to national newspapers are fuming over cuts to freelance photographers' fees sparked by the recession.rnrn

Photographic agencies that supply pictures to national newspapers are fuming over cuts to freelance photographers’ fees sparked by the recession.

News International, owner of The Sun and The Times, wrote to contributors saying the cutbacks were needed to stay competitive in the ‘current economic climate’.

Chris Johnson, treasurer of The National Association of News and Picture Agencies (NAPA), is angry that newspapers went ahead with the cuts without any consultation with agencies.

Johnson told us the fees are reminiscent of rates paid in the ‘mid-1990s’.

The reductions – said to be up to 40% – took effect on 9 February.

Contributors say they were informed that The Times, for example, would cut the rate for a news picture, measuring 0-10sq in, from £90 to £54, while the fee for an 11-25sq-inch image would drop from £130 to £90.

Photographers were notified of the reductions at the end of January – less than a fortnight before they took effect.

However, a spokeswoman for The Times told us it only imposed a ‘10%’ reduction, though this appears to be the rate for journalists’ copy, not pictures, according to a letter from the newspaper seen by AP.

‘Death warrant’

Amateur Photographer understands that, last week, 30 UK picture agencies attempted to resolve the dispute by individually approaching News International.

However, this tactic was met by a disappointing response from newspaper chiefs.

One agency boss, who did not want to be named, told us: ‘They [the newspapers] seem to have chosen to forget that they are the customer. In any normal transaction the supplier, not the customer, sets the price.’

He warned that, in the age of the internet, newspapers would be ‘writing their own death warrant’ if they ignore the ‘supreme importance’ of paying a fair rate for ‘quality content’.

In a statement, The Times newspaper told us: ‘The Times has reduced the rates it pays to freelance photographers. This reduction is specifically related to space rates not commission rates. The new rates have been implemented following the redesign of the paper.’ The newspaper’s Saturday edition was redesigned on 24 January.

We understand that NAPA plans to discuss the issue with the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, and the National Union of Journalists, before deciding on its next move in the dispute.