Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reality TV: Honey, I Sold the Kids

Some words you need to keep in reserve for when the occasion calls for their use.

Words like "odious."

I'm referring to a forthcoming reality-television series called "Kid Nation." It will be on a once-respected American television network, CBS.

You really have to read the waivers that were signed by the parents of the children selected for the program. Here, via the Smoking Gun is the remarkable 22-page contract in which parents grant CBS and two production outfits astonishing rights to their children’s lives and well-being, and indemnify them from liability, so that the children could participate in "Kid Nation." The show is to premier on Sept. 19 -- and in my opinion, anyone who watches it after reading that contract should be ashamed of themselves.

For the reality show, 40 children aged 8 to 15 were hauled off to Bonanza City, an abandoned mining town in the New Mexico desert, for 40 days, where they created their own ad hoc society -- out of contact with their parents.

The contract the parents signed to allow their children to participate, among other things, stipulates that the parents acknowledge “certain risks” to their child – referred to as the Minor -- participating in the 13-part series.

It says: “I agree that should the Minor be killed, injured or harmed” to release CBS and the producers “from any claim based on the Producer’s failure to inspect or investigate” the children’s “accommodations.”

For $5,000 (children who are voted best participant in each of the 13 episodes are eligible for another $20,000, at Producer's discretion, the contract says), parents agree to the following, among other things:

“I understand that the Program may take place in inherently dangerous travel areas, that may expose the Minor and other participants to a variety of unmarked and uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause the Minor serious bodily injury, illness or death, including, without limitation: general exposure to extremes of heat and cold; crime, water hazards, floods; drowning; treacherous terrain; collision with others, including those submerged below water surfaces; injuries arising from equipment failure or defect; falls from heights, objects and equipment; falling rocks and objects; crevasses, cliffs and rock avalanches; encounters with wild or domesticated animals; acts of God (e.g., earthquakes); food poisoning; encounters with dangerous flora and fauna; collisions with other participants, spectators and others; loss of orientation (getting lost) in primitive areas; exhaustion, dehydration, fatigue, over-exertion and sun or heat-stroke; hypothermia; and risks arising from evacuation and rescue activities in remote or less-developed areas.”

Also: “I acknowledge that the Minor’s participation” in the program “may present certain risks” … “and I hereby assume any and all risks on behalf of the Minor and myself associated with the Minor’s participation in the program, including, without limitation, the risk of death or physical or emotional injury, minor and/or severe bodily harm and/or illness, which arise by any means, including, without limitation, instruction by Producers or other program participants…”

Parents also agree not to hold CBS and the producers responsible if “the Minor chooses to enter into an intimate relationship of any nature with another participant or any other person [italics mine, but think about that], [then] the Minor does so without any influence by the Producers and the Minor and I hereby assume any and all risks that may be associated with any relationship, including, without limitation, emotional distress, illness, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy, if applicable.”

Remember, these are kids aged 8 to 15 ("if applicable"). Of the 40 kids, incidentally, a dozen are aged 10 or younger, and only one is 15.

Among other things, the parents also agree to abide by a confidentiality clause that prevents them from talking about the program and their child's participation in it unless the interview is “sanctioned by the press officer of CBS.”

Penalty for breaking the CBS oath of omerta and blabbing: $5 million.

Wondering about child-labor laws? The contract stipulates that any money paid to the children is a "prize or stipend" and "not, in any way, a wage, salary or other indicia of employment."

The story from today's Times is on the Web site, unaccountably buried. But here it is.

A major television network in the United States pulled this stunt, in cahoots with television production companies. A guy named Ghen Maynard is the head of alternative programing (reality shows) for CBS. He should be very proud of himself.

The parents who signed on to this -- what the hell were they thinking?

And by the way: Where were -- and are -- the kids' schools?

Meanwhile, parents interested in peddling their children for the next round of the series are offered an "Eligibility Requirements" form to fill out and send to the show's office at 1823 Colorado Ave. in Santa Monica, along with a video showcasing the kid's personality and a long questionnaire for both parent and child. I can't link to the questionnaire, a protected pdf file, but it's online at:

The application requires the child to answer a long list of questions. Among them:

--"How important is religion to you?" and how often do you go to church?

--"Who did your parents vote for in the last presidential election?"

--"Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend or do you have a crush on anyone? If so, tell us about him or her."



Joshua Katt said...

A ridiculous premise and show, I won't be watching.

I don't know why the legal teams at CBS bother with these waivers. The are generally unenforceable, you cannot sign away personal injury rights at least in NY State. And you can't sign away a minor's rights like that. At best, these waivers might try and slow someone down or disaude a minor claim but in reality, any personal injury syster (lawyer) will blow right through them and attack the insurance beneath the waiver.

Cassandra_Moderna said...

Obviously, this is "Lord of the Flies II," and any parent who signs such a waiver, however unenforceable it might be, should have their parental rights reviewed by the proper state child welfare authorities. Thank goodness, I do not live in the States and do not have cable TV, so I am not even subjected to watching the commercials for these "reality" shows. The couch potatoes should get off of their derrières and boycott the companies who advertise their products via this show.