Guest Author - Elizabeth Borer
CBS is set to launch a new reality TV show called “Kid Nation” in mid-September. The buzz surrounding this new program is not because of it being original, inventive or creative, but for pushing the limits on what is legally acceptable to do to children.
According to a synopsis released by CBS on their website, this program takes 40 kids to a deserted town called Bonanza City, New Mexico, south of Santa Fe, where they have 40 days to organize a functioning city. The children range from ages 8 through 15 with no parents or teachers involved in the decision making or rule setting for the town. This is one show where they are letting kids control everything in order to see how they handle the situation. CBS has released clips on their website showing the children voting on which 4 kids should be the “government” and other kids doing jobs such as cooking, cleaning and physical labor. The clips shed light on the range of emotion that the kids go through while trying to break through the stress of being away from their families and the pressure that they experience having to live, work and communicate with other kids their age. These sound like everyday problems that kids face, but others in the same situation might turn to a parent, teacher or coach for advice, a luxury these kids are not given during this experience. They have to fend for themselves and prove to their families, the nation, and especially themselves if they can handle the responsibility that has been placed on them.
From the time that CBS released information on the show there has been nonstop controversy surrounding whether or not CBS broke any child labor laws and if the children had been mistreated during production. According to the Associated Press, multiple Hollywood unions and organizations have been all over this issue with investigations and speculation as to what happened during filming. The Writer’s Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists as well as the New Mexico Attorney General Office has been digging into the details of the show to uncover if there was in fact any wrongdoing during the time on set.
CBS is standing firmly behind the contracts that each of the parents were required to sign for their child to participate in the program. A complaint by one of the mothers sparked some of the controversy yet the mother is unable to communicate with the media due to the agreement that parents and kids have with the network to keep the details of filming and show results silent until the episodes have aired. This agreement has become a standard among reality TV participants, with a hefty fine to pay if the agreement is broken, it gives the network security that information about the show won’t be leaked to the media.
Questions are being asked of the network by parents, unions and in comments from the general public. People want to know if child labor laws were broken, if the kids were mistreated on the set, if the network was trying to hide what they were doing to the state of New Mexico and if this type of reality show is crossing the line as to what should be acceptable for children to participate in. It is quite noticeable to viewers of network television that there has been a huge shift in the type of shows that are being presented. Gone are the days of being able to choose between a number of sitcoms, dramas and even miniseries. Instead viewers are offered a tray of cookie cutter reality shows with cheep production costs, casts looking for their shot at fame, and un-realistic reality. Whether the public misses shows like “Friends” or “NYPD Blue” reality TV is what we watch because that is what we are presented. Networks wrap up reality programming as a gift because they know that it is irresistible to viewers who just can’t get enough.
Since it is the people watching the programs who control the ratings, it is the responsibility of the viewers to ask of themselves if shows like this are going too far.
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