Not So Real

The jig is up; there are writers on reality TV shows.

Not only that, but according to the union, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), reality TV show workers are working in the equivalent of a "21st-century telecommunications sweatshop."

That's why it is looking to unionize the writers, producers, and editors. Reality shows are sometimes called non-scripted programming, but as most TV professionals know, there is much structure, editing, and writing around reality TV - all to elicit a specific storyline. Certain contestants have accused producers of rigging contests -- call it re-writing -- to get desired results so specific people stay in the competition.

The union calls these reality TV workers 'storytellers' - those people who interview contestants and edit thousands of hours of tape, working to give the illusion of 'reality' or spontaneity, and as such should have health benefits and proper wage protection.



The WGA says these workers log in more than their counterparts who work on scripted comedies and dramas. One reality show producer said 18-hour days are not uncommon. All that makes sense - given the rush to get reality shows on the air and beat other networks into putting on similar reality shows.

What are TV workers titles on reality TV? Not writers, say TV reality show producers, because according to them, there is no 'writing.' Instead, many are given titles such as "story producers," "story editors," and "segment producers." Perhaps the union and the producers could reach a compromise to get a clear perspective - calling TV reality show workers "steering content executives" or "shapers of stories."

The push for unionizing dovetails with other current TV reality issues: Certain TV pressure groups want reality shows to be more open about product placement, and other TV programs too. They want a list of products placed on shows - perhaps in the end credits.

All these efforts shouldn't stop here, at least not for viewers. TV reality producers should go one step farther and identify those TV workers who make reality TV... not so real.

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