The sordid underbelly of reality TV might soon be brought out into the spotlight, and Bravo and NBCUniversal are saying they are all right with that and have been for a while.
Less than week after another letter from lawyers for Bethenny Frankel went to NBCU brass over claims of sexual violence, booze and the “grotesque and depraved mistreatment of the reality stars and crewmembers,” the Comcast-owned outlet says the NDAs have never stopped series participants from talking about illegal activity.
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Confidentiality clauses are standard practice in reality programming to prevent disclosure of storylines prior to air. They are not intended to prevent disclosure by cast and crew of unlawful acts in the workplace, and they have not been enforced in that manner. To be clear: any current or former cast or crew is free to discuss and disclose any allegedly unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination, or any other conduct they have reason to believe is inappropriate. We are also working with our third-party production companies to remind all cast and crew that they are encouraged to report any such concerns through the channels made available by the production company so concerns can be promptly addressed.
In accordance with its Respect in the Workplace policy, NBCU is re-emphasizing to third-party producers like Evolution Media (which is behind Vanderpump Rules) that they must give the cast and crews of reality TV series multiple avenues to report misconduct, I hear. One of those avenues is to make sure anonymous hotline numbers are printed clearly and prominently on call sheets.
Still, even though NBCU says this is how its NDAs have always functioned, it all might be too little too late in the real world.
On August 3, not long after Frankel made public her vision for a reality TV stars union, attorney Bryan Freedman told NBCU EVP/General Counsel Kimberley D. Harris: “On innumerable occasions, which we will further detail in due course, NBC has exceeded the moral and legal limits permissible in a civilized society governed by the rule of law.”
Promising “the day of reckoning has arrived,” Freedman and fellow lawyer Mark Geragos wanted all documents, hard drives and more related to NBCU and Bravo’s lucrative reality TV business maintained for a potential lawsuit.
On August 20, Freedman followed up to Harris: “In the course of our investigation, we have not only confirmed the veracity of our initial allegations but have also discovered that the breadth and scope of your wrongdoing is greater than previously believed.”
“We are left with the inescapable conclusion that NBC and its production partners are grappling with systemic rot for which sunlight is the first necessary remedial measure,” the Beverly Hills lawyer added, demanding NBCU abandoned the “draconian terms of NBC’s contracts with its cast and crew.”
“NBCUniversal has two choices: lead by example or be forced into compliance.”
Clearly, in an old-skool Friday afternoon news dump, NBCU choose the former. Freedman did not respond to request for comment on NBU’s apparent shift today.
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