Reality-TV Violations Probed in New York

A New York City Council member has asked ITV Studios and Leftfield Pictures, producer of “Pawn Stars,” to testify at the council’s “Real Reality of Reality TV” hearing on June 25.

Council member Daneek Miller asked the companies to provide written evidence as well as testimony about employees’ work schedules, overtime, health benefits, paid days off, mandatory sick days, the average length of employment for freelance employees and health and safety policies.

“It is important to the City of New York to encourage the growth of well-paying, stable jobs in the creative economy,” Miller wrote. “Nonfiction television, an expanding and lucrative industry, is important to this growth. The jobs it provides should meet certain standards that our community values, not the least of which is adherence to the law.”

A rep for ITV said, “ITV Studios America is in ongoing talks with the WGA East and has no further comment at this stage.”

ITV bought 80% of Leftfield last month for $360 million.

The Writers Guild of America East exec director Lowell Peterson is also testifying at the hearing.

The WGA East alleged in November that writers and producers on TV’s reality shows were losing $40 million annually in unpaid overtime, based on a survey of WGA East members. The union singled out History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” A&E’s “The First 48,” Discovery’s “Fatal Encounters” and National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” as violators.

The WGA East has been attempting to unionize writer-producers in nonfiction television since 2009. The guild reached three-year master contract agreements with Lion Television and Optomen Prods. in 2012 and successfully unionized about 150 writer-producers at Sharp Entertainment (“Doomsday Preppers”) in February.

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