Guild targets reality TV

By Greg Hernandez, Staff Writer

Reality television bites, according to the Writers Guild of America. Calling the popular television genre "a 21st-century telecommunications industry sweatshop," WGA West President Daniel Petrie Jr. went public Monday with a campaign to organize reality TV writers, producers and editors who are working without a union contract.

Nearly 1,000 writers, producers and editors working for major reality television production companies have signed authorization cards for WGA representation since an organizing meeting was held in May. The WGA has written each company demanding recognition, but so far, none has agreed to negotiate.

"The people working in reality TV deserve the protections of health and pension benefits, minimum salary, fair working conditions and residuals -- just like everyone else in the industry," Petrie said in a statement. "If the industry refuses, we are prepared to take the actions necessary to achieve> our goals and to assist the reality TV work force as they seek enforcement of state and federal overtime laws."

Petrie and others said Monday that it was a "myth" that reality shows weren't scripted, even if dialogue was not being written.

"We don't write lines for people to say, but we use our storytelling skills," said Dave Rupel, a story editor and story producer on such programs as "The Real World," "Temptation Island" and "Meet My Folks."

"We create an interesting situation, put the right ensemble together and select the correct sound bites," he said.

Petrie called the campaign the most aggressive organizing effort the Guild has undertaken since it’s founding, but Rupel sees a long, hard fight ahead.

"We know there will be resistance, because the industry sees reality as the moneymaker -- it costs less than scripted," he said. "In the scripted world, overtime and double time makes it financially not a good situation to work six days a week or 20 hours a day. On reality shows, you wrap at 2 a.m. and are back at the office at 8 a.m., and there is no penalty for that."

Web design © 2006 Alison Zawacki
Webmaster: Jeff Brascher