Thursday 3 February 2011

BBC interviews Gupta on work experience at Indy

Girish Gupta, who I reported was rebuffed by the Independent when he asked for payment for his stories published while he was on work experience, was interviewed on Richard Bilton's programme 'Who Gets the Best Jobs?' on BBC 2 last night. (You can watch it here)

The programme investigated access to the professions and claimed that the best jobs were being snapped up by an increasingly small gene pool of privileged, well-connected families with many having to work for free doing internships and work placements.

Gupta had unpaid placements on three national dailies and one news agency and had 32 stories published. He estimated that living in London to do the placements cost him more than £2,000.

Gupta told Bilson: "At first seeing your byline in a national newspaper is a massive deal but after a while I started to realise that the newspapers were making money out of me and my work and not paying for it. I worked for the Independent and had about six articles published and what I began to realise was that I was doing exactly the same jobs as the guy next to me and he was getting paid for it."

The Independent told the programme work experience was a useful way of getting "a foot in the door" and Gupta was told in advance his two week work placement would be unpaid.

Gupta contacted me last November about his campaign for those on work experience to be paid the freelance rate for any of their work that is published. When Gupta invoiced the Independent after a two week placement, during which he had stories published in the paper, he was given short shrift. He has published his email correspondence with executives at the Independent on his own site.

Gupta told me today: "In terms of my case with the Indy, obviously it was more about getting the debate going than the £400 I asked for. However, HMRC are investigating and it seems quite thoroughly. The Indy have been asked to investigate internally and report to HMRC by the end of February as well."

Gupta is now freelancing in Mexico and has been reporting for The Times and commissioned to write an article for the New Statesman. He said: "The Times are actually flying me to Venezuela next week. I've had a lot more success here than I ever would have in London where no doubt I'd be rehashing press releases right now, if I did have a job."

His campaign has got a mixed response and Gupta has been compared to Clark Kent and, less favourably, David Brent.

The NUJ is running a Cashback for Interns campaign.

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