Top reality TV producers are looking to do business with Obamacare.
No, not for a competition show — although surely there’s potential — but as an employment benefit for the thousands of freelancers who work for independent producers in unscripted television.
Health care is a top issue for the Nonfiction Producers Assn., a trade group launched in July by eight production companies, with industry vet Rick Feldman as exec director. Membership as of October is up to 31 banners (and counting), and as such, the NPA is reaching the critical mass of employees that the Affordable Care Act is designed to address.
The goal is for the NPA to help member companies sort out how to provide coverage for the more than 11,000 freelance writers, editors, producers and other staffers who move in and out of jobs on various unscripted shows every year.
“The idea is that employees would be able to go from one of our companies to another with portable health care,” Feldman said. The complicated question of the companies’ obligations to freelancers under the Affordable Care Act has been a driver of the initiative, but company leaders also see it as an important quality-of-life issue, and a way to attract the best talent.
The discussions are in the very earliest stages, Feldman cautioned, “but I would be disappointed if by the end of next year, we weren’t able to figure out a way to offer a health-care plan.”
The plan would be administered by an outside entity, and it’s unlikely that every NPA member company would participate, Feldman said. But even if 30% of eligible freelancers took part, it would be a big help to employers — not to mention a good thing for the health of employees.
Among the NPA’s recent recruits is All3Media America, home of USA’s “Chrisley Knows Best” (pictured) and CBS’ “Undercover Boss”; and World of Wonder, producer of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” franchise.
Feldman is a TV station vet who ran Los Angeles’ KCOP-TV for years and spent nine years as head of the National Assn. of Television Program Executives. One thing that surprised him about working with various personalities at the companies in the NPA was how much they all were interested in the trade org as a forum for professional networking and community building.
“The older guys want to hear what the younger guys have to say about the business, and the younger people of course look up to the members who have been in the business for years,” he said.
UPDATE: The Writers Guild of America East weighed in with a response noting that health care is a key aspect of its ongoing efforts to organize nonfiction writer-producers. The NPA initiative, however, aims to cover job classifications that fall beyond the scope of WGAE membership.
“We have won contracts locking in health benefits that far exceed the bare minimum required by the Affordable Care Act,” the WGAE said. “And the minimum level of coverage provided by law is woefully inadequate – huge deductibles and other expenses, with all or most of the premiums borne by the employees themselves. That is no substitute for the benefits the WGAE has won the right way – through collective bargaining.”