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Are Reality Shows Subject to Child Labor Laws?

Producers of a new reality show, Kid Nation, due to air on CBS in mid-September, are facing complaints that the show -- in which children ages 8 to 15 try to create a functioning town with minimal adult supervision -- violated child labor laws. See news stories from Variety (8/24/07) and NYT (8/17/07). The Attorney General's Office in New Mexico, the state where the show was filmed, is reviewing the complaints to determine whether further action is warranted. Among other things, children worked for 14 hours a day without pay; they were also unsupervised, so four accidentally drank bleach while another suffered a burn from hot grease while working in the kitchen. Paul Secunda comments here at Workplace Prof Blog that given the level of abuse reported in the news, criminal child neglect charges might be more appropriate. However, CBS denies the allegations, claiming that it consulted with New Mexico officials while filming the show and that a state labor inspector visited the set. 

But is CBS alone to blame? What about the children's parents? Yesterday's Smoking Gun reported here that participants' parents were required to sign agreements with CBS, in which they waived their rights to sue the network even if their child died, was injured or contracted a sexually transmitted discease during the show's taping. (There's a link to the agreement in the post). Perhaps CBS wasn't as careful with the children as it should have been, but parents also took huge risks for their children in signing the agreement, which was fairly explicit in stating that children would be sent to remote locations, that producers could not guarantee the safety of children and that there were risks involved (see page 2 of agreement). Should CBS receive full blame for injuries to children when their own parents were willing to endanger them?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 24, 2007 at 06:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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