Sunday, May 24, 2009

Child Labor Laws and Reality TV

E Online:

About Jon & Kate Plus 8: I wonder if the kids are protected under child labor laws, or if they should be?
Miracle Aimee, via Twitter

You'd think that any parents who drag their kids into their reality-TV money grab would face a smackdown from some sort of child-protection law. But no. That would be way too civilized.

No, Jon and Kate Gosselin's plus-eight do not fall under the kinds of kiddie labor laws enjoyed by peers who work on scripted film or TV sets, attorneys tell me. Here's why...

...courtesy of attorney Paul Moretti, who served as an on-set film safety expert before moving into his own labor law practice.

If anyone tried to take this issue to a judge, Moretti says, "chances are, courts would say this doesn't count as labor, because the children are doing things they would be doing whether there was a camera or not.

"Show producers are not taking the kids away from their studies, making them memorize lines, or taking them away from socialization," says Moretti, who also answers legal questions for

"The law would probably say that when the children are sitting at home using a coloring book or going to a soccer game, and they're being filmed, they're not doing someone else's business. They're doing their own business."

Translation: When a TV show has a script, kids can only work a set number of hours per day, they must have a certain number of breaks per day, and they must have on-set tutors to ensure their studies do not slide.

A reality-show camera can track children from morning to night, parents can rake in wagonloads of cash, and Moretti knows of no laws that can change that on behalf of the child.

One other thing to consider: Attorney Lisa Pierson Weinberger of Greenberg Glusker points out that kids on shows like these might not even be getting any money—thus their time in front of the camera isn't "labor."

As for your second question: Yes, Moretti says, he thinks there should be a change in the law. Or, at the very least, child welfare guidelines should be reconsidered, other experts say.

"The question this really brings to focus is: In this reality-oriented society, are children as adequately protected from adults as they need to be?" muses Regent University law professor Kathleen McKee. "I think they are not. Kudos to your reader for bringing up this issue."

So there you go. And oh: If you're wondering whether I agree with these experts—you bet I do. One hundred percent.