Reality TV representation one of the disputed issues as writers’ strike continues

The writers’ strike continues, and while reality rushes in to fill the gaps left by scripted series, representation for reality TV show story writers are at least one part of the stalled negotiations.

On Friday, striking writers rallied at FremantleMedia’s offices, and picketers carried reality-themed signs that said things like “Unscripted? Yeah, write” and “Fremantle: We’re Aiken for health insurance.” WGA West president Patric Verrone said reality TV representation “will be in our next contract,” according to Variety. Former Top Model story producer Kai Bowe said “the lines between reality and scripted shows are no longer blurred; they’re non-existant” because reality series are “half-written before the shows are shot. If you are a writer or a producer in reality, the Writers Guild is your union. It’s that simple.”

After a breakdown in talks, caused by an ultimatum issued by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that the Writers Guild of America drop certain provisions from its demands before talks resume, the two sides issued statements. In its statement, the AMPTP outlined its perspective on two provisions that the WGA is asking for:

– They demand full control over reality television and animation. In other words, they want us to make membership in their union mandatory to work in this industry – even though thousands of people in reality and animation have already chosen not to join the WGA.

– They demand restrictions designed to prevent networks from airing any reality programs unless they are produced under terms in keeping with the WGA agreement. This would apply even to producers who are not associated with the Guild. Their proposal artificially limits competition and most likely would not withstand legal challenge.

In a letter to the WGA obtained by Nikki Finke, the AMPTP said that the WGA’s “presentation on December 5th of an added piece to the Reality Program proposal only widened the gap between us. Your proposal sought to bind the networks, who do not even sit at this bargaining table, to a contractual provision which prohibits them from doing business with those who do not offer the same pension and health provisions as set forth in the MBA. Surely you knew that even if any of us had the authority to make such a commitment, the idea of forcing the networks not to do business with a certain category of producers would be wholly unacceptable to us.”

In its statement, the WGA does not get into its specific demands about reality television, but says that “the AMPTP demands we give up several of our proposals, including … reality,” and says that they “reject the idea of an ultimatum. Although a number of items we have on the table are negotiable, we cannot be forced to bargain with ourselves.”

The WGA gets real: The march on Fremantle [Variety]
Talks Day #8: Moguls Walk From Talks After Issuing An Ultimatum To Writers; Both Sides Accuse Each Other Of Lying and Judge AMPTP’s Ultimatum For Yourselves [Deadline Hollywood Daily]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

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.