Reality Bites – Legal precedent for TV?

House Rules compensation

A recent court case decision in Australia could have a huge impact on the relationship between reality TV subjects and the TV companies and broadcasters that make the programmes they appear in.

In a nutshell; reality tv ‘stars’ usually have a contract between the TV company and individual, and amongst other things these will say that the reality TV star is not an employee and in turn the company has fewer responsibilities than they would if they were an employer, such as the impact of appearing in the TV show has on their mental health and their reputation after broadcast.

House Rules compensation

The headline from The Guardian about the reality TV show contestant awarded compensation.

Satisfying the appetite of reality TV show viewers means dull doesn’t sell, but arguments and drama do. If there can be evidence that the producers have in any way manufactured situations to make better TV but in turn affected the well being of the reality ‘stars’, then that’s where you get issues- potentially legal ones. And that’s what happened in Australia.

Regarding my broadcast TV work, the type of shows I work on don’t tend to be aggressive reality type shows but they all have very strict compliance guidelines. Already tight restrictions make TV making harder, and this situation in Australia may well affect the likes of how producers of shows such as ‘Love Island’ conduct themselves. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.


Jonathan Robinson is the founder of and a TV Producer / Director.





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