The current strikes by both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are enormous and monumentally historic.
This has not happened since Ronald Reagan was SAG president. (Yes, really)
But there’s another group in the entertainment industry who are subject to mistreatment and exploitation, all to enrich TV and streaming behemoths.
RHONY alum Bethenny Frankel has been sounding the alarm. And this week, ahead of (rumored) resumed negotiations, SAG-AFTRA noted that they’re with her all the way.
On Thursday, August 10, Deadline reported that SAG-AFTRA is working “toward the protection of the reality performers” on reality TV.
This massive guild which works to ensure workers’ rights already covers the hosts on most of reality TV.
SAG-AFTRA stated that they are making an effort to end “the exploitative practices that have developed in this area.”
Additionally, the colossal guild hopes “to engage in a new path to union coverage.”
Reality TV boomed after the last massive strike in 2008.
And this strike, of both writers and actors, is the largest in generations. It could enact necessary, historic changes in an industry that currently robs the actual workers to line the pockets of corporate executives and shareholders.
Reality TV has been a loophole that certain unscrupulous entertainment giants have hoped to exploit. (Just like streaming)
“We are tired of studios and production companies trying to circumvent the union,” SAG-AFTRA noted, “in order to exploit the talent that they rely upon to make their product.” Aren’t we all.
Thursday’s statement from SAG-AFTRA shared that it now “has engaged in discussions with Bryan Freedman at the Freedman + Taitelman, LLP law firm who has been retained by Bethenny Frankel.”
These were discussions “around the subject of treatment of reality performers.”
The massive guilt noted that “SAG-AFTRA is the union that represents reality performers.” Thus far, there are limits to what that means.
“Depending on the structure of the production and the performers involved,” SAG-AFTRA continued, “we can cover these performers under our Network Code Agreement.”
“We stand ready to assist Bethenny Frankel, Bryan Freedman, and Mark Geragos along with reality performers and our members,” SAG-AFTRA affirmed.
They stand together “in the fight and are tired of studios and production companies trying to circumvent the Union in order to exploit the talent that they rely upon to make their product.”
SAG-AFTRA added: “We encourage any reality performers and/or members to reach out to SAG-AFTRA’s Entertainment Contracts Department.”
This is “so that we may work together toward the protection of the reality performers.”
The aim is “ending the exploitative practices that have developed in this area.”
“And,” SAG-AFTRA continued, “to engage in a new path to union coverage.”
The reason that SAG-AFTRA is name-dropping Bethenny Frankel is because her recent TikTok video laid out a number of ways in which networks exploit reality TV performers.
She focused upon how her first season netted her only a few thousand dollars, even though people still watch these episodes.
Which of course means that Bravo and NBCUniversal likely still profit from these episodes, even now. Is that how things should work?
In addition to a lawsuit over alleged mistreatment at Bravo, there are simply a lot of solid points about reality TV performers.
From unpaid main cast members (like on 90 Day Fiance) to minors who film against their will (Little People, Big World) to entire families robbed by the one collecting the paycheck (Counting On), this industry is rife with injustice.
Some reality stars get rich off of their stardom. Many — most — might collect a few thousand dollars after months of humiliation. Their work creates a fortune. They just aren’t the ones who receive it.