The new Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) under the ZoSea reforms has yet again landed itself in the middle of a s#!t storm, this time copping heavy criticism by advertising for skilled and experienced persons to come and work long days at their events – the only catch is, their pay could be as little as a sandwich each day. The awkwardly worded advertisement published on the Pedestrian.tv website goes under the banner of ‘work experience’ and ‘internship’ but quickly changes to ask for persons with ‘previous experince (sic) in the above roles’, being Production Assistants, Post Production Assistants and Camera Assistants, and persons who have ‘final cut pro skills’ and ‘camera operator knowledge’.
The latest move by the ASP has again come under fire from the wider surf media family, after the controversial all-consuming contracts at the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast caused widespread confusion and outrage from veteran and professional photographers and film makers, with the new ASP ‘terms and conditions’ of media accreditation initially insisting that the ASP seizes ownership of anything anyone produces outright. Regarding the intern ad, today a highly regarded and prominent surf journalist posted on Facebook saying of the ASP “f#@k them”, whilst others have also expressed being shocked and bemused by the bold ask from the ASP.
Tennis Australia was slammed nationwide late last year for doing almost the exact same thing with this advertisement, opting to exclude deserved working media and instead asking for unpaid but experienced photographers to put in and cover their events in exchange for nothing more than ‘exposure’. We’ve always said that if a photographer wants exposure they should never look any further than the settings on their camera. Tennis Australia were forced to remove their advertisement and respond to the backlash from media professionals. It wasn’t a good look when it made it on to Mediawatch (see video below).
In a letter sent to Tennis Australia, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (the union that represents journalists and media industry workers in Australia) labelled the move by Tennis Australia to essentially ‘hire’ skilled media personnel and not pay them as ‘unconscionable’.
So just what does the ASP expect here and have they been studying the same questionable business models as Tennis Australia? What we know is –
- They are clearly looking for people with camera/production/media skills and/or experience to help run their event media platform.
- They have made sure workers are not getting any remuneration, compensation or provision of expenses for say travel or accommodation – with the exception being ‘breakfast and lunch’.
- Workers must be there every day from 5:30AM (and we know those days can often run well into the evening on site at an ASP WCT event).
- There will be no pay, not a cent, no money at all for your ‘experience’ or ‘skills’.
- You need to be available, working or on call for 16 days straight.
- As with the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast, we’re assuming you have to sign away most of your common rights with a waiver so that if you choke on a chicken bone in the supplied sandwich, you can’t blame the ASP.
Sounds fair right? Many surf media professionals are now starting to universally critisise the ASP noting that it’s apparent the new look ZoSea model is stepping over, or rather on, those that have supported the industry and competition’s history for decades, and many are removing their involvement and support from professional tour event surfing – at least for the time being. Perhaps it was the banning of veteran tour photographer Peter ‘Joli’ Wilson from the Gold Coast Quiksilver site for speaking out against the unfriendly new terms and conditions, that set this backlash in motion. The ‘cornerstone’ photographer whose images have long promoted and supported the ASP and the world surfing tour, expressed his concerns to Swellnet earlier this year and was promptly told he couldn’t photograph at the event. He had questioned their direction with it all, telling Swellnet – “I’m not sure what they’ve done. There is no major sport in Australia with a similar working model to the ASP’s new media one. Not the NRL, the AFL or the ARU or Cricket. Once you’re approved with your media accreditation in those sports, you own all of your images. You can and do with them whatever you please … I dunno where to now. Maybe I’ll turn my attention to pet portraits. There’s actually more money in that (laughs).”
Where to now? If the governing body of professional surfing is outwardly doing its utmost to eradicate the surf media professional, and dismantle any platform of mutual respect in what has been claimed as ‘changes to protect their brand’, (which let’s face it, hypothetically would be the ideal business model to maximise profits at the expense of the worker) they will be causing more damage to themselves than good. Halfway through the Gold Coast Quiksilver Pro, they changed their terms and conditions for media accreditation, but for most it was too little and too late. A lot of photographers and writers had already sworn a boycott and opted out of having anything to do with event.
So, the big question is, should they be allowed to do this? Or should the ASP be paying for their workers and looking after the communities they arguably disrupt each time the ‘circus’ rolls into town, by giving the local surf media professionals and aspirants first dibs on any jobs and making sure they are paid what they are worth? Taking over Snapper Rocks for a month and attracting thousands of extra surfers is all well and good, but to then essentially ask that same community that has lost its surf break and large portion of their town to the event, to then come along and provide their hard work for free – is that right? On the other side of things, ZoSea and the ASP are funding and putting on the tour which has been rumoured to be financially less successful than most would assume, so who is anyone to question the manner in which they provide that support to professional surfing, or how they run it? And what of those ‘interns’ that might be sold on undercutting their surf media peers, perhaps damaging the industry and jumping on board for some ‘experience’ or ‘exposure’? Are they just being exploited and are they really getting anything out of this other than some stress, a petrol bill and a few BLTs?
It’s a controversial thing to be sure – but we know that usually for a large company or organisation disguising a free labour model as ‘work experience’ and then asking for skilled persons to donate their time (thereby shutting out paid professionals) is not a good look. How would the same actions go down on an Australian building construction site? The outcome would probably be violent.