Some "permalancers" at Viacom's MTV Networks scored significant gains today when the company announced that they were rolling back changes they'd made to contractor benefits—though there are still issues regarding benefits for contract employees who haven't been at work for more than a year. Freelancers at the entertainment giant and at other places of "employment" are still in limbo, in many ways.
In this case, unless contractors are hired on as staffers under the newly slightly-more benevolent Viacom, they're unlikely to see even the ass-end of a company-sponsored retirement plan. The legal risks to Viacom are too significant.
MTVN's freelancers aren't the only media biz contractors misclassified by their employers under IRS rules. You ever look at the front page of a newspaper section and realize that nearly all the bylines belong to interns and stringers? Well, um, hopefully you don't, because you have better things to. Sadly, we don't. So we notice!
The same thing applies in magazine publishing, where a freelancer can spend decades (if they're lucky!) contracted to produce a set number of pieces per year for a single title without receiving the benefits enjoyed by employees—Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance. Television and web properties grapple with the same issues.
And if you're a business owner, how do you appease the IRS, your conscience and your advertisers all at the same time? Makes us want to take a nap.
Tomorrow, we might, if we feel like it, take a peek at what it's like to freelance for the city's newspapers—the contracts, perks and pay. Magazines and television next! (Maybe. Perhaps we'll just hit snooze till three.) Either way, we'll be asking for your emailed stories about the state of contractorhood.