CBC Freelance Specific Services Contracts – Good Value or a Possible Minefield?

by Don Genova

Last month I went over the nuts and bolts of CBC’s Freelance Contributor Contracts. But CBC also uses other kinds of contracts with freelancers. One of those is the Freelance Specific Services contract.

For a type of contract that often gets used by the CBC to hire freelancers, it sure doesn’t say much about it in the collective agreement with the Canadian Media Guild.

Here it is, in total, bottom of page 90 and top of page 91 of the CA:

Article 30.4 Freelance Specific Services (FSS for short)

Under Freelance Specific Services contracts, a freelancer will provide a deliverable for a specific identifiable program(s) or program segments or items within an individual program series. Such contracts will not have a term. Freelance Specific Services contracts shall be prorated at not less than the applicable minimum rate for similar work referred to in Article 54 (Classifications and Hourly Rates)

So, at this point you may be asking, “What is a ‘deliverable’? Why is there no term? What is the applicable rate for similar work? What is similar work, anyway?”

Let’s take a look one at a time: 

Deliverable: A deliverable can be almost anything that you ‘deliver’ to the program you’re working on. It could simply be an interview you recorded. It could be research and background done to help a host do a good interview. It could be an entire program. It could be an entire series of programs. It could be you appearing on camera as an expert commentator during an election, or special event.  In short, a deliverable can be almost anything.  

Terms and compensation

In the example here, the ‘deliverable’ is a tape-sync or ‘double-ender’, the freelancer was contracted as a producer, and the rate was based on 4 hours of work at a fairly high salary band.

No ‘term’. If you were a temporary or contract employee, you’re usually hired for a certain number of weeks or days. Hours and days of work are usually scheduled, there can be overtime, days off, and benefits if your ‘term’ is longer than 13 weeks.  None of that applies to a Freelance Specific Services contract, although if you are creating a show, directing it, hosting it, working with others, there obviously can be some structure given to work days and schedules. But say you’re working on a documentary for ‘Ideas’. You’re kind of on your own clock for most of the production…setting your own pace as you move towards the deadline the show would like to see your ‘deliverable’.  That’s a good and bad thing. You can work at your own pace, but you may also put in a lot more hours than you would if you were a temp, contract, or full-time employee. Which brings us to…

Applicable Rate for Similar Work: When you are hired under an FSS contract, you must be designated as some sort of employee that is covered by the collective agreement. You’ll find all of those classifications and pay scales in Article 54 beginning on page 198. You can be a producer, associate producer, host, reporter, and so on. The FSS states that you can’t be paid any less than the rate for the type of job that you’re doing.

This is where it gets a little like comparing apples and oranges over a sorting barrel that keeps changing shapes. Although the contract has no ‘term’, you are being hired to do a certain amount of work that the person hiring you must think of in terms of hours and days. They can’t pay you less per hour than the lowest end of the ‘Steps’ that are listed in the agreement. This is where a negotiation should occur. You need to have a pretty good idea of how many days it is going to take you to do the work, even though you may not have to go in to ‘work’ or be around at certain times of the day.

You also need to have an idea of your worth. If you’re an experienced documentary producer, why would you sign a contract that only paid you at the lower end of the pay scales? So you have to balance the complexity of the work with the time you’re going to spend doing it with how much you want to get paid and how much they’re willing to pay you.  Sound complicated? It can be. Usually commissioning producers will have a figure in mind that they’re willing to spend. It’s up to you to determine whether you’re happy or not with what they’re offering, your willingness to ask for more, and their willingness to negotiate.

Other Considerations: Many FSS contracts will also stipulate that by signing, you are giving up your copyright in the ‘deliverable’. This means if it is some form of broadcast (digital or terrestrial), performance, text, or photographs, the CBC will own it and you can’t resell it elsewhere. Moral rights would be gone as well, so they could take the deliverable and chop it up, alter it, whatever, without having to consult you.

Copyright and moral rights

You don’t have income tax or other deductions like CPP or EI deducted from your pay, (you do have 1.55% of the gross deducted in union dues) and it is considered income from self-employment, so the costs you incur while doing the work (if not covered by the CBC) are deductible at tax time, which is one reason why people who have their own companies or are sole proprietors don’t mind these types of contracts.

Depending on the assignment, you may also be asked to provide your own medical and travel insurance. You should try to negotiate to have these costs included in your overall contract, especially if you are hired on an assignment that would take you outside of Canada.

I have to say that the Freelance Specific Services contract is not my favourite contract in the Collective Agreement. It’s very convenient for the CBC as it allows the Corporation to hire you somewhat like an employee, but with very few of the protections afforded to employees under the CA.  You might consider asking to be hired as a contract or temporary employee instead as circumstances permit.

Feel free to drop me a line at freelance@cmg.ca if you have questions about this kind of contract or any other contracts you may encounter at the CBC or elsewhere in your freelance life.  


Don Genova is the president of CMG Freelance. He’s a longtime freelancer with 20 years of experience contributing to the CBC, magazines and newspapers.


Posted on November 3, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

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  1. Written by Don Genova
    on November 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    You may find these two links useful as well. They are the current salary grids for CBC positions, updated to 2017. You can check the positions by yearly salary, or hourly salary. Here: http://www.cmg.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Classifications-and-Hourly-Rates-2017-ENG-FINAL.pdf

    And here: http://www.cmg.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Annualized-Salary-Rates-2017-ENG-FINAL.pdf

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