Reality bites French TV companies

Participants on shows must get pay, contract

BRUSSELS — Appearing in a reality TV show is work, a Paris court ruled Wednesday. This means that participants in French reality series will now have to have employment contracts and receive wages.

The ruling came in a case brought by participants in the 2003 season of “L’Ile de la tentation,” based on the U.S. series “Temptation Island.” Broadcast on TF1, it involved young couples testing their commitment to one another over 12 days on an idyllic tropical island.

The court concluded that demands made of the couples by production company Glem, now operating as TF1 Prods., made this a working relationship, even though participants signed documents saying that they were taking part for personal rather than professional reasons.

According to TF1 Prods., the implications go beyond reality TV.

“Employment law will have to be applied to all broadcasts where producers impose rules on participants,” TF1 Prods. topper Edouard Boccon-Gibod told a press conference after the decision, citing challenge and treasure hunt shows as examples.

He also expressed concern that the public would see reality TV programs in a different light once they knew those taking part were on the payroll.

Compensation claims by the former contestants will be settled in another court.

Ruling isn’t likely to have much of an impact in the U.S., where compensation varies greatly from program to program.

Depending on the show, contestants on U.S. reality skeins may be paid a basic stipend or a fee on a scale related to how long they appear. On other shows, participants are not paid anything.