Labor inspector barred from Kid Nation production, which was warned about child labor

Kid Nation producers wouldn’t allow a New Mexico labor inspector on the show’s set, and were warned that their interpretation of child labor law might not apply.

While CBS lawyer Jonathan Anschell told the New York Times last week that “[n]o one from that office, despite a detailed description of what we were doing, ever raised an issue whether licensing was required,” that wasn’t the case. “But on May 1, two weeks after a state labor inspector was turned away from the site, Andrea R. Buzzard, a New Mexico assistant attorney general, warned in a letter to lawyers for the production that the state did not agree with the network’s interpretation of state labor law,” the New York Times reports today.

Assistant attorney general Andrea R. Buzzard wrote to CBS, “We are not certain that those laws are limited to traditional ‘employment’ relationships,” and said, as the Times puts it, “that a child’s frequent presence at a work site ‘shall be prima facie evidence that such child is unlawfully engaged in labor.'”

She sent that after the labor inspector seeking work permits was forced to wait until he “was told that the show’s executive producer, Tom Forman, would not be available that day,” and when he returned the next day, he was “stopped at the front gate and not allowed onto the property,” according to the paper.

A spokesperson for New Mexico’s labor department said the state has a permit process for camps. “We have requests for these permits every summer, to waive the child labor laws and minimum wage rights for camps. We were not trying to put obstacles in front of the production. We wanted to provide for the safety of children,” Carlos Castaneda said.

Separately, CBS addressed safety and other concerns in a statement reproduced in part by the New York Post, saying, “The few minor injuries that took place were all treated immediately and by professionals,” saying there was a “behind-the-scenes support structure, including on-site paramedics, a pediatrician, an animal safety expert and a child psychologist.”

CBS Was Warned on ‘Kid Nation,’ Documents Show [New York Times]
No Child’s Play [New York Post]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.