Risky Business

Since leaving school in the early 70’s I followed all the guidance and advice that was available to get a job. To be employed without having to worry about tax, national insurance or even pension payments, as these were obligatory deductions from my gross pay, leaving me to worry about my meagre disposable income. I don’t think that I even used to look at those figures on my payslips, my eyes going straight to the amount that was being deposited into my bank account. However, to follow my seemingly impossible yet lifelong dream of being a radio broadcaster I had to come to terms with a change in my employment status: self employed. Most radio presenters/D.J’s are what is called, freelance. Whether working for the BBC or most commercial radio stations in the UK, the presenter is often referred to as freelance staff or, laughingly, the talent. This self employed status is a desperately fragile and vulnerable way of earning money, especially today, with so many independent stations being swallowed up by the mega conglomerates with their pac-man appetite for industry domination. In addition, many a freelance contract is for twelve months only, though I did once have a two year contract with the BBC. This means that every year ones livelihood is on the line, and never more so during a change of management. Unlike a builder or a plumber, a presenter has very few opportunities of earning extra money or bringing home what most people might describe as a living wage. Additionally, a freelance presenter is paid for the amount of time they spend on air, and get nothing for their time in preparation, travel, and the word expenses doesn’t even enter the equation. An assumption is so often made that anyone involved in the media, in particular presenters, earn exceptional amounts of money, perhaps in line with celebrity or status. If only it were true. There are only a handful of presenters in the UK that would earn what might best be described as a full living sum. That said I still find it somewhat incredible that anyone presenting for the licence subsidised BBC might earn more than £20,000 per annum for presenting, as an example, a daily three hour show. Yet it still happens, with some earning excessively more than that. If that wasn’t enough, I remember during the nineties, when things weren’t going so well financially, I discovered that, despite maintaining my flawless tax and national insurance contribution payments record, I was not entitled to unemployment benefit. In fact, to this day, as a self employed person, I don’t qualify for any state help whatsoever, even if I were to face the direst of financial circumstances. Perhaps things have changed since then. I think I’m probably too nervous to enquire, yet it’s unlikely that I would qualify for contributions-based Jobseeker’s Allowance because of my Class 2 national insurance contributions, even though none of this would affect my full pension allowance at age 65. Most odd.


1 Comment

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One response to “Risky Business

  1. Great article Richard. Never ceases to amaze me the status of self employed people. It is funny that financial institutions will shy at lending to a business owner, but will look favourably on the people they employ.
    Keep up the good work.


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