The writers of reality TV sue for rights

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The Writers Guild of America, west, has followed through on its threats to take action against unfair working conditions imposed on writers by the producers of reality television shows.

The Guild is aiding 12 writers in lawsuits against ABC, CBS, the WB, and TBS, along with production companies Syndicated Productions, Dawn Syndicated Productions, Telepictures, and Next Entertainment. They claim that the networks and companies infringed upon their rights by forcing them to work unpaid overtime, forgo meal breaks, and lie on their time cards.

According to Guild president Daniel Petrie Jr., the violations were specifically constructed to prevent those who craft stories for reality television from receiving the rights and benefits accorded to workers on scripted shows. Unscripted television workers must cull concise storylines from hundreds of hours of raw footage--a process which, they claim, amounts to something on par with writing.

The defendants all refused to negotiate with the Guild when it began the reality rights campaign this June by sending a demand letter to major reality production companies. None of them have released a statement on the case.

If the writers' suit is granted class-action status, the verdict could cover up to 200 people who have worked on eight different reality shows.

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