– Reality TV star Bethenny Frankel calls for a unionization of reality TV industry
– Frankel’s statement on Twitter prompts support from Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA
– WGA and SAG-AFTRA already have some contract rules in place for reality series
Reality TV star and entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel started a conversation surrounding the unionization of the reality TV industry, suggesting the need for a strike in order to implement changes. As a result, her statement garnered support from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).
Frankel, a former cast member of “The Real Housewives of New York City” and founder of the Skinnygirl lifestyle brand, tweeted on Tuesday, “Ratings r down across the board in reality tv. Do u know why? Bc it’s homogenized. No risks allowed. It’s vanilla & predictable. Time to strike against the entire industry. Unionize. Time to take the power. Demand opposite of predictable – it’s a dying genre.”
Her tweet has amplified the conversation on the need for unionization within the reality TV industry, with WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson saying in a statement, “We agree with her call for a strike – specifically, writers and showrunners on nonfiction/competition/renovation/factual series should all be covered by a WGA or other union contract. Many already are, and they enjoy decent pay, capped workweeks, health care, and a pension, and residual payments when their shows are a hit here and abroad.”
Peterson also highlighted the fact that due to WGA’s and other unions’ efforts, some reality TV show employees already have certain benefits. He said, “many have these protections and benefits because the WGA and other unions have won them for their members – but too many reality series have avoided union contracts.”
SAG-AFTRA is also supporting the call for unionization. According to a statement from the organization, “SAG-AFTRA has contract rules in place for performers employed on nonfiction television programs. We welcome Bethenny Frankel’s call for fairness and respect in reality television, and we agree with her desire to bring nonfiction performers within the protection of a labor union.”
The support from both WGA and SAG-AFTRA indicates that the conversation Bethenny Frankel started on Twitter may lead to significant changes within the reality TV industry in terms of workers’ rights and benefits.