5 Things to Ask for in Your Media Contract

A photo of a magnifying glass over a contract.
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A media contract usually contains some basic items, regardless of whether it is a two-page document or rambles on for 10 pages or more. Most of it is legal jargon, but you want to make sure these 5 items are addressed somewhere.

Your Pay

If your media contract or other type of employment agreement doesn't address your pay, you'll want to make sure it does. If you are committing to staying at a company, you want to know what kind of money you'll get in return.

This is also the item you'll want to negotiate before you sign off on the deal. If the money issue isn't addressed to your satisfaction, you'll have little incentive to accept the contract offer.

Performance Bonuses

While getting guaranteed performance bonuses isn't a requirement, they're sure nice to have in writing. If you are a TV news anchor, your success is likely partially measured by the station's Nielsen ratings.

That means if ratings go up, the station's revenue goes up. It's not impolite to ask whether you could get a bonus check in return. However, that may set you up for risk if the ratings go down. The TV station may insist that your pay is cut if viewership decreases, even if it's because of something out of your control.

Hair/Makeup/Clothes

An on-air TV personality has to look the part. That means stylish clothes, on-air makeup, and a well-kept hairstyle.

That adds up to be expensive, especially for women who need a larger wardrobe than a man who can get by with a handful of suits.

Even radio personalities who may not be seen on the air still have to look the part out in public, like at concerts or other station events. Your media company should be willing to chip in to make you look your best.

Job Duty Protection

One question you'll likely have is what happens if you sign a contract for a high-profile job but are later demoted to a position you don't want.

You need to know whether your pay will stay the same or if you'll be given the option to leave for a better job somewhere else.

News anchors are demoted to news reporter positions all the time. If you can get a promise that you'll keep your same pay rate if you're bumped down to a reporter, then you can expect that your contract will still be enforceable. Many companies have a clause that says that it's up to them whether to use all, some or none of your job duties while you're employed with them. Just make sure a demotion doesn't also cut your pay without giving you some avenue to quit.

Out Clauses

"Out clauses", also called escape clauses, spell out how you can leave the company before the end of your contract. These have to be negotiated when the contract is drawn up. You can't simply want out of your contract the moment you're offered a job at another company.

You will probably have to accept a non-compete clause that prevents you from joining a competitor, sometimes for up to a year after you leave your current company. If your goal is to ultimately take a six-figure job in a major media market, you want your contract to give you a way to accept that job without penalty.

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