On Capitol Hill, Al Franken Highlights Perils of Reality and Freelance Writers

FrankenSen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is joining the effort of the Writers Guild of America East to represent more reality TV writers and producers. He opened a panel on Capitol Hill to draw attention to reality TV, nonfiction and freelance writers, telling the gathering of union and labor reps that the scribes are forced to accept fewer protections in the workplace. A central message of the event was to press for legislative steps to modernize federal labor laws to reflect the freelance economy, but it also came as the WGAE secured deals last week with two nonfiction companies, Lion Television and Optomen Productions.

The panel featured Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America East and “Late Show with David Letterman” writer Lee Ellenberg, and was moderated by Sarita Gupta, executive director of American Rights at Work and Jobs with Justice.

Their argument was that nonfiction writers and other freelancers lack the protections of traditional employment, like retirement and health benefits.

Franken has kept a rather low profile in national media since he took office in 2011, but he has spoken out from time to time on show biz issues. He was a critic of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal. And at the event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, he referred to his own tenure on “Saturday Night Live” and how the nonfiction workforce has shifted to reality TV.

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