The freelance production team behind Lewes-based Chalk TV say they are owed thousands by station bosses.
The team, which includes former MP Norman Baker as well as a number of media professionals from the Lewes area, say they had been persuaded to ‘keep faith’ and continue working for several weeks despite not being paid for their past work.
They say the full team is owed around £20,000 for work completed and have been told they won’t be paid.
A spokesman for the team said: “Despite positive reviews for the output put together by the production team, it turns out the organisers had no proper business plan, no advertising revenue had been secured, and promised investors failed to materialise. Even worse, programmes were supplied to Latest TV in Brighton without a contract being signed, or even an email exchange, programmes Latest now say they never agreed to pay for.
“Frequent upbeat statements to the production team from director Keith Hayes, that funds were just around the corner, persuaded the production team to keep faith, the most recent such statement just hours before the plug was pulled. This meant that unpaid invoices escalated quite unnecessarily. The result is that most of the team have received not one penny from the start in promised fees.”
They say they are seeking to publicise their position after the company began advertising for a new production team.
One of the unpaid freelancers, Dan Davies said: “We now know there never was any money to pay anybody, but the directors were content to let the programmes run and the bills mount knowing this.
“We have not even had an apology.
“Instead, adverts have been placed for another group of people to form a production team. Anyone who sees this advert or has responded to it would be well advised to steer well clear, or insist on payment up front.”
Freelancer Chloe King added: “I feel sad for everyone involved that it has come to this. The team worked hard to short deadlines for many weeks only to find we were not to be paid. It really brings home the precariousness of freelancing.
“I was asked to do this work for Chalk TV, I didn’t seek it out, and I don’t want others to be approached, as I was, with the promise of secure work that never materialises.”
When approached by the Sussex Express, station director Keith Hayes confirmed that a group of freelancers had not been paid for work done for the station but said Chalk TV is still an active company.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Hayes and Chalk TV, commercial consultant Trevor Heathfield said the company disputed the figure owed to the freelance team, saying the true amount is ‘far lower than £20,000.’
In an email sent to the freelancers, Mr Heathfield said: “As a result of your actions as a group issuing a PR campaign aimed at damaging Keith, I am afraid to say that has finalised the situation for Chalk TV Ltd and the impact on you personally is there will now be no possible way that the company can repay you therefore sadly you have set yourself on fire.
“The damage that this has/will cause is irreparable for Chalk and will be the final nail in the coffin. As you are fully aware it was the intention to repay you from forthcoming revenues from Chalk but as a result of the publicity it will prove impossible to trade as Chalk.
“So in summary you have achieved what you set out to do – damage Keith through retribution but in the same action you have hurt yourself. So just to be crystal clear you will not receive any money whatsoever now or in the future from Chalk.”
After being approached for comment a spokesman for Latest TV said that it had at no point offered to pay for the programmes.
The spokesman said: “Latest TV only ever offered to showcase Chalk TV’s programmes. We have acted honourably throughout and made it clear at the outset we would not be able to pay for programmes aired. We are always happy to showcase local programmes on our channel but as a small local TV company we do not have commissioning budgets.”
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