Reality TV Lawsuit

23rd March 2009 by Maura McHugh

According to the L.A. Times three former employees of Fremantle Media, which produces hit reality TV shows such as American Idol, have launched a class-action lawsuit against the company.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday, the former employees — a music coordinator for “American Idol,” an associate producer for the reality-based TV series “Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency” and a producer for the game show “Temptation” — contend that the London-based company and its various subsidiaries exposed them to sweatshop conditions.

“Employees work ten, twelve and even twenty-hour days, six or seven days a week, without overtime compensation and are forced to forgo meal and rest breaks as required by law,” the suit states.

The workers further alleged that Fremantle engaged in a “fraudulent scheme” to conceal the hours they worked, forcing them to falsify their time cards so that they would not be paid overtime.

The Writers Guild of America, East and West, have been campaigning strongly for four years for better rights for writers on reality television shows in the USA. The Guild backed two similar lawsuits that made comparable allegations against reality TV producers and networks, and the suits were settled in January for $4 million.

In February the Guild continued its picket of the popular American Idol reality show.

“‘Fremantle is lowering standards for workers all across the entertainment industry,” said David N. Weiss, vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West. “American Idol is the top-rated show on television, and the fact that Fremantle does not compensate its writers and other workers fairly is unacceptable.”

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