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Reality TV firm slams union

Fremantle disputes WGA claims about working conditions and says not all of its shows use writers.

July 19, 2008|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Reality TV producer FremantleMedia North America fired back at the Writers Guild of America, West, dismissing its "American Idol" Truth Tour as nothing more than a caravan of misinformation.

"The WGA allegations that are leveled against Fremantle are not true and just another example of their campaign of defamation and negative propaganda," said David Shall, executive vice president of business operations for Fremantle, which produces several reality TV programs, including the Fox hit "American Idol."

Shall was responding to a campaign the guild launched this week intended to highlight the adverse working conditions of writers on "American Idol" and other Fremantle shows. Among other things, guild officials allege that Fremantle has denied overtime pay and meal breaks to writers and other workers.

But Fremantle executives call such claims baseless. The guild's dispute with Fremantle began last year, when it urged four writers on the game show "Temptation" to walk off the job. The union has since helped several Fremantle employees file wage and hour claims, which have been settled or are pending.

The union wants Fremantle to agree to a contract covering writers on all of its reality and game shows, which Fremantle argues is unreasonable because not all of the company's shows, including "American Idol," use writers -- an assertion the union disputes.

Fremantle recently negotiated a contract with the guild to cover its game show "Match Game" and noted that it had agreements with other unions, including the Directors Guild of America.

"They want a blanket contract to cover every one of our shows, whether we need writers or not," Shall said. "Our position is that most of our reality shows and a good chunk of our game shows don't need writers."

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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