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RadarOnline slapped with labor citations regarding octuplet watch

A state agency says the website, which has an exclusive contract to film Nadya Suleman's family, violated permit and filming regulations.

June 17, 2009|Kimi Yoshino and Jessica Garrison

California's top labor official Tuesday slapped four citations on the celebrity gossip website that has been chronicling the life of octuplets mom Nadya Suleman and her 14 children.

The fledgling Internet site, RadarOnline.com, quickly established itself as the go-to source for Suleman gossip. Week after week, it posted peeks into Suleman's juggling act of caring for octuplets and six older children as a single, unemployed mother. It had the only camera crew inside Suleman's SUV on March 17, the chaotic, frenzied night the first of two octuplets were released from the hospital.

But on Tuesday, the office of the state labor commissioner issued four citations against RadarOnline, alleging that it had not obtained an entertainment permit, filmed 2-month-old Noah and Isaiah Suleman outside hours approved by the state labor code, and did not have a studio teacher on site to ensure the infants' health and safety. The four citations, which cover six violations, carry a $3,000 fine, said Dean Fryer, the agency's spokesman.

"Any time there's a question of a baby being put at risk in the entertainment industry, I think it's incumbent on me as labor commissioner to take my statutory jurisdiction very, very seriously," Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet said.

Under the state's labor code, the website should have obtained an entertainment permit for filming any child between 15 days and 18 years old. In addition, filming of infants is allowed for only 20 minutes a day, between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

RadarOnline officials had no comment but said on their website: "Like any other news-gathering organization, Radar-Online.com is not required to obtain permits nor is it restricted to certain hours in its news-gathering operations."

Bradstreet said their actions go "way, way beyond anything that could conceivably be imagined to be news."

The investigation, launched May 4, delved into March 17, the night the babies first came home. As RadarOnline accompanied Suleman, they were chased by a phalanx of paparazzi and arrived home to a chaotic mob scene. Helicopters flew overhead, and dozens of photographers from media outlets around the world -- along with hundreds of curious onlookers -- converged on her cul-de-sac, prompting more than 200 calls to 911, including one from Suleman herself.

"The whole thing was really out of control," Bradstreet said.

The contract between RadarOnline and Suleman outlines an exclusive, paid, seven-week deal that includes regular "video journal" entries. Since the homecoming, RadarOnline has posted numerous other reports and could face a host of additional citations.

Angela Suleman, the octuplets' grandmother, called the citations "ridiculous."

"The babies were brought in and put in a crib," she said. "How can babies, you know, not even a month old, how can they 'work'?"

The filming is not intrusive, Angela Suleman said.

"The babies have no inkling," she said. And Suleman's older children "think it's fun," she said, adding that sometimes they stick their tongues out at the camera.

Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who has repeatedly attempted to intervene on behalf of Suleman's children, said she was pleased by the state's actions.

Officials from the state's health and human services agency notified the Orange County child welfare department about the citations Tuesday.

kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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