ITV Blasted Over Purchase of ‘Pawn Stars’ Producer

The Writers Guild of America East has amped up its four-year campaign against ITV Studios in the wake of last week’s $360 million purchase of “Pawn Stars” producer Leftfield Entertainment Group.

The guild staged a protest Monday at ITV’s Manhattan offices with an AFL-CIO executive and New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson delivering letters urging the British-owned corporation to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the WGA East.

A WGA East spokesman said a delegation of about 40 protesters participated. ITV did not respond to request for comment.

The guild has accused ITV America, which produces reality series including Nat Geo’s “Cesar 911,” A&E’s “The First 48″ and TLC’s “Four Weddings,” of “stealing” an average $30,000 annually from each of its writers and producers by having them work up to 70 hours per week and refusing to provide them health benefits, paid time off and other basic protections.

The WGA noted that the deal to acquire 80% of Leftfield makes ITV the largest independent unscripted television producer in the United States.

“ITV’s purchase of Leftfield Pictures for $360 million in cash is troubling,” said Tefere Gebre of the AFL-CIO. “ITV freelance producers and associate producers have waited – literally for years – since winning their union election to see this company agree to even a modest health care plan.  Yet ITV readily has the cash on hand for this historic purchase and predicts it will help their profits from day one.”

Johnson said he wants to encourage the growth of the creative economy, then added, “But we don’t need to encourage the growth of a business model that takes advantage of a precarious freelance workforce, working people to their breaking point and then kicking them to the curb.”

The battle between the WGA East and ITV dates back to 2010, when the guild won an election to make it the bargaining representative. In 2012, the National Labor Relations Board rejected the final appeal by ITV to challenge the certification of the election.

The WGA East reached three-year master contract agreements with Lion Television and Optomen Prods. in 2012 as the culmination of a two-year organizing drive targeting shows produced in New York City.

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