WGA gives up on unionizing reality show story writers

As a possible writers’ strike approaches at the end of this month–which, depending upon its length, could mean a heavy new wave of reality TV–the Writers Guild of America has given up its efforts to unionize story writers and producers, the people who craft storylines from hours of footage. Starting in 2005, the union called reality TV “an industry sweatshop”, sued networks and producers, and organized a strike against Top Model 7, among other activities.

Now, “[d]espite its rhetoric to the contrary, the WGA is quietly pulling the plug on the notion of getting reality shows under its jurisdiction,” Variety reports. That’s because the union “can’t afford to keep up the fight, amid tense contract negotiations with producers, on an issue that has been a losing battle for the guild,” Variety says. The efforts have also not been that effective: Top Model dropped its writers in favor of unionized editors and continued production.

The union’s “efforts to sign up reality shows have fallen so short that members won’t face any sanction for working in that sector should a work stoppage occur,” Variety reports. “In a telling move earlier this month, the WGA forged extensive strike rules that did not include any mention of punishment for working on reality shows — even though the rules contained sanctions for work in other areas of limited guild coverage, such as new media and feature animation.”

Still, the WGA West’s general counsel, Tony Segall, said that was because “It’s imposing a rule that would not have much of an effect. We still have an active campaign to organize reality TV, but we’re heavily focused on the (contract) negotiations now.”

WGA gives up on nonscripted effort [Variety]

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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.