While there are numerous trade groups and associations with long histories in the entertainment business, most notably the Motion Picture Association of America, until recently no group has represented the interests of producers and crew working in the country’s bustling reality television industry. With new reality shows launching practically every week, unscripted television is big business in the U.S. For those working behind the scenes, finding a job on an unscripted show is often a way to get their foot in the door in an extremely crowded Hollywood job market.
Unfortunately, recent reports have surfaced of employees in reality television working under difficult circumstances. A series of reports on the popular entertainment blog Gawker has revealed that pay and working conditions have raised concerns among those in the industry. As one anonymous reality producer told Gawker, the situation is often quite dire: “My best hope is a huge lawsuit for production companies who set the working conditions…More people will have to die or get hurt in order to change the reality TV industry. If audiences quit watching reality shows, duh… the networks will make other kinds of shows.
These troubling reports may have been one of the driving forces behind the news this week of a new association, the Nonfiction Producers Association, a new trade group designed to promote and grow the reality television industry.
As reported by Variety, “The launch of NPA comes on the heels of a deal-making frenzy during the past two years that has seen a slew of sizable independent unscripted producers scooped up by larger congloms in the U.S. and overseas, from Time Warner and Discovery Communications to U.K.’s ITV and Tinopolis to France’s Banijay. That process has been part of the maturation of unscripted business to a point where industry leaders believe that a trade org focused on the unique needs of the reality-docu sector was necessary.
‘These companies are all maturing at such a quick pace,’ Feldman told Variety. ‘The unscripted arena has gone from the Wild West to a mature business. In talking to people in the business, there was a real desire among some companies to figure out a way in which they could speak with one voice.’”
This new association will represent the interests of workers who have raised concerns about conditions, and also provide a platform for new complaints. Member companies will further benefit by having a voice for the broader industry when it comes to legislative issues, new innovations, and more.
The NPA has agreed that worker reality employee concerns regarding pay, benefits and other issues are valid concerns and have vowed to look into the issue. According to Associations Now coverage, “’Part of the motivation for doing this is to be a place where everybody can get together to find an intelligent, common-sense way to solve these problems,’ said Feldman, a former president and CEO of the National Association of Television Program Executives. ‘These companies have all had conversations with lawyers, and parameters are being set for the industry. We’d like to get everyone in an association to give their thoughts on the best way to handle these issues.’”