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PGA unveils reality probe

Guild to investigate alleged workplace abuses

The Producers Guild of America has launched an investigation into allegedly illegal practices in the production of reality TV shows.

The PGA, which reps over 2,500 producers, made the disclosure in a message sent Thursday to its members by president Marshall Herskovitz and exec director Vance Van Pettern.

“Over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that many companies engaged in the production of reality television have employed labor practices that are both illegal and unethical,” the duo said. “As a guild, we intend to use our resources to investigate these apparent abuses and bring to bear what influence we have within this industry to ensure that the companies rise to the legal standards required by state and federal law and the moral standards demanded by simple human decency.”

The missive said the PGA’s seeking personal accounts of workplace abuses, including excessive hours, denial of overtime pay, intimidation regarding complaints and unsafe working conditions. Herskovitz and Van Petten said the probe stems from the PGA’s national board endorsement of a goal earlier this year for “the adoption of and adherence to established legal standards for industry working conditions.”

“While we can’t make any guarantees as to where this investigation will lead, please know that we will do everything we possibly can to ensure a fair and legal workplace for all of our members,” they added.

The PGA’s foray into the issue comes a year after the Writers Guild of America West helped writers on reality shows file two lawsuits alleging violations of labor laws on overtime, wages and meal periods. The suits, which have been consolidated into a single action, allege that writers were required to falsify time cards and work unlimited hours.

The suits were filed against Fox Broadcasting, ABC, CBS, the WB, TBS, Rocket Science and companies run by reality kingpin Mike Fleiss. The WGA has said it has over 1,000 signed authorization cards from writers, producers and editors who work on 70 reality shows and want to be repped by the WGA West, but it has yet to achieve jurisdiction over a show.

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