BT Sport and Sky Sports consulted on freelance pay rates, email suggests

BT Sport staff have consulted rivals at Sky over freelance pay rates in 2018, according to an email seen by the Financial Times which appears to suggest collusion between broadcasters.

In a July 2018 email, shared with the FT by two separate people, a senior BT Sport executive wrote: “After consultation with Sky Sports, BT Sport will increase the daily rate. . . from £10 per day to £380.

The executive was responding to demands for higher compensation from independent EVS operators, who create slow-motion replays and voice tape packages for broadcasters.

The Competition and Markets Authority last week launched an investigation into whether BT, IMG Media, ITV and Sky had set the daily rates offered to freelancers, saying it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect at less an infringement of competition law.

The correspondence appears to support the view that some sports broadcasters may have breached competition law by agreeing on the price offered to freelancers, many of whom have been hit hard during the Covid-19 pandemic and are now facing drastic increases in their cost of living. And working.

The CMA’s investigation focuses on the compensation offered to qualified independent staff, such as cameramen, sound engineers, slow-motion specialists, stage managers and technical staff, who work for various broadcasters, according to two people briefed on investigation.

Other regulators are also looking at evidence that companies in the sports and media sectors have sought to collude rather than compete, aware that cartels tend to emerge when labor is scarce and economic conditions are difficult.

Stijn Huijts, a lawyer at Geradin Partners who worked at the CMA, said that on the face of it the letter constituted “possible evidence of collusion”.

“You’re not supposed to tell your competitor about your plans for what you’ll pay for something,” he added, noting that this type of arrangement was sometimes referred to as a “buying cartel.”

Huijts noted that while the correspondence appeared to be “uncomfortable evidence” for the companies involved, it could turn out there was an innocent explanation.

BT Sport said: “While we take these allegations very seriously, we are unable to comment due to the ongoing investigation with the CMA.” Sky declined to comment.

In the email, the BT Sport executive added that following consultation with Sky Sports, the broadcaster would raise pay by the same figure by £10 for other roles, including “EVS studio production Ops”, “gallery operators only” and “play only”. » workers, and that all these increases would be « effective from August 1st ».

A number of independent technical operators who work for major sports broadcasters in the UK have told the Financial Times that it is common for Sky to raise its rate by £10, followed by other broadcasters.

“What happened in six years? . . is that there will be a period of perhaps a year or 18 months where the rates offered by [broadcasters] are the same. Then it’s usually Sky who raise the fare by £10 first, followed by the others,” said a sound operator.

“I never suspected anything about rate fixing. We just assumed Sky Football led the way with the occasional £10 raise and the others had to follow,” said another cameraman.

An EVS operator noted that broadcasters “almost never increase the rate [of pay] and never in line with inflation”.

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