WGAW tour challenges reality show conditions

LOS ANGELES: The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) launched its American Idol Truth Tour - to protest working conditions of reality-show writers and employees - with a July 16 kick-off event. Organizers say the tour targets both show producers, encouraging them to change their working conditions on the shows, and the public, educating them about the realities of working in reality TV.

LOS ANGELES: The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) launched its American Idol Truth Tour - to protest working conditions of reality-show writers and employees - with a July 16 kick-off event. Organizers say the tour targets both show producers, encouraging them to change their working conditions on the shows, and the public, educating them about the realities of working in reality TV.

Several writers approached the WGAW with complaints of long hours and wage problems.

"The tour is a part of our ongoing efforts to get representation for the employees, not just writers," said Neal Sacharow, director of communications for WGAW. "We're working with other unions, but [mainly] for all the workers in that [reality] genre," The Teamsters, which represents employees in transportation, has already thrown its support behind the tour, focusing on drivers for reality shows.

The tour is specifically targeting FremantleMedia North America, which owns several reality shows, including American Idol and Farmer Wants a Wife. The tour will follow the American Idol auditions as they take place across the country.

FremantleMedia executive David Shall told the LA Times the complaints were baseless and referred to the tour as "negative propaganda." The company did not immediately return PRWeek's calls.

In each audition city, the WGAW will host a rally, which is pitched to local papers and media and includes videos, performances, and speeches from reality TV show workers. Online, the campaign maintains a Web site and WGAW members are encouraged to post their own content, Sacharow said.

"It's an issue campaign and the content is as important as the form," he added. "If a video goes up that may not be produced like a slick commercial, sometimes it can be more effective, believable, and real than something you might spend a lot of money on."

The campaign is scheduled to run through August and some reality-show participants have stepped forward to show their support. Megan Bobo of American Idol and Jay London and Dante from Last Comic Standing were at the tour's first stop in San Francisco on July 17.

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