Executives from multiple television networks weighed in on the best ways to handle crises behind the scenes during the Variety TV Summit on Tuesday in Los Angeles in the wake of the “Bachelor in Paradise” controversy.
“We’ve been really scrupulous to make sure that everything is above board and we’re doing all the vetting and all the research and the checking we need to do on those shows,” Fox Entertainment president David Madden said. “Nothing is perfect but I think we’ve been able to monitor those situations much more closely and if there is a problem get to it more quickly before it becomes a matter of public interest or public knowledge.”
Madden was joined by programming chiefs including NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, FX Networks original programming president Eric Schrier, OWN president Erik Logan on a panel that that touched on a broad range of industry issues, including the art of crisis management when unscripted series go off the rails.
Also on hand was HBO Programming president Casey Bloys, who echoed Madden’s sentiment, touting the fact that HBO’s publicity team has learned the best ways to handle such crises through their decades of experience working together.
“We’ve had a few controversies over the years, and I do think that’s where our team having been together for 20-25 years (helps),” he said. “I think that experience, knowing how to navigate, knowing the right thing to do, not losing sight of–not what’s going to get us out of trouble but what’s the right thing to do. Having a team together all speaking as one is important in situations like that.”
Because Fox played a pioneering role in the development of buzzy unscripted series that had their fair share of controversies, Madden was also able to speak from experience. “These things are hard but the more these situations come up the more attention is paid to make sure that at the earliest possible stages we are getting ahead of it so we don’t get caught in an embarrassing predicament,” he said.
Salke pointed out that such crises often stem from the fact that network shows are often massive productions, but she was thankful that she has not had to deal with a major dilemma during her tenure with NBC.
“These shows are corporations of their own,” she said. “They’re companies with hundreds of people in some cases. Sometimes things come up that you have to have managed or defuse or have dealt with. I don’t recall anything really big like ‘Oh my God, we have to call a crisis management team or I have to go fly there and have some crazy conversations with people.'”
Schrier also said that FX has not had to deal with too many major controversies, something he credited to the leadership of network head John Landgraf.
“We luckily haven’t had anything that’s too controversial but I think it stems from the way John Landgraf runs our business,” he said. “We’re very honest and very transparent. We never try to spin news or spin a story. We’re very upfront about the way we run our business and what’s going on. I think that’s a really admirable way to run the business and it makes me feel good about working there.”
Production on “Bachelor in Paradise” was halted recently due to allegations of misconduct on the set during the filming of Season 4. On Sunday, Warner Bros. issued a statement saying, “We have become aware of allegations of misconduct on the set of ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ in Mexico. We have suspended production and we are conducting a thorough investigation of these allegations. Once the investigation is complete, we will take appropriate responsive action.”
No official word on the future of the series is expected until after the Warner Bros. investigation is completed. The season had been slated to premiere Aug. 8.
ABC announced the first 16 cast members for the upcoming season last week. “Paradise” reunites former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” contestants to see if they can find love at a resort in Sayulita, Mexico. The announced cast members included Corinne Olympios, Raven Gates, Alexis Waters, Amanda Stanton, and DeMario Jackson.
The panel was moderated by Cynthia Littleton, managing editor of TV for Variety.