The Grim Realities of Reality TV

First, let’s get something straight. What’s being talked about in the following article – working conditions for writers and others in reality TV – definitely sucks.

But guess what? It’s the same in fiction TV…but the salaries – at least for writers – are better.

There. We said it. And so has Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan:

realitytvprobsby Hamilton Nolan:

The rise of reality TV programming over the past two decades has been driven in large part by the fact that reality shows are cheap to produce. Labor costs are a big reason why. What does that mean for the people who work on these shows? Allow some of them to tell you.

Last week, a union that is working with employees of reality (or news/ nonfiction) television shows put us in contact with a number of people who were willing to share their stories of working in the industry. These workers have varying experiences, but they all presumably share the conviction that a union would improve their working conditions. You are free to decide whether or not that colors your view of their stories. Many of these employees are treated as freelancers, and they do not have the workplace protections that their unionized brethren in other sectors of the entertainment industry enjoy. Their experiences vary, but they all go to show that, past a thin veneer of glamour, the TV industry is just another job.

— I’ve never received health insurance from any job in television. I’ve gotten it from my wife for the last 12 years… There is simply no way that I could have a career in non-fiction TV if we didn’t get health insurance from my wife’s job. Or, put it this way: if I wasn’t married when I got cancer, even though I was producing and directing TV series with budgets in the millions of dollars, I either would have died, or gone hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to pay for medical treatment.

— I never receive any percentage of the profits on TV programs that I write, produce or direct.

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