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A Times investigation finds few legal safeguards for kids on reality TV shows

June 28, 2010 |  8:02 am


After a month-long public records investigation, Times staff writers Matea Gold and Richard Verrier found that dozens of children are appearing on reality television shows without legal safeguards because of widespread confusion among state regulators about how to classify the shows.

In its examination of some of the most visible series featuring children under 16, The Times found that a majority had not obtained work permits to employ minors — including TLC's "19 Kids and Counting," WE TV's "Raising Sextuplets" and the entire "Real Housewives" franchise on Bravo.

Because producers say that the kids on their programs are participants, not employees, child labor laws are rarely applied. As a result, for the vast majority of these shows, there are no state-mandated instructors or union representatives on set to limit the number of hours the children are on camera, to make sure they get meal breaks and go to school, or to prevent exposure to dangerous situations. Most reality show children are not guaranteed that they will be compensated or that any money they do earn will be set aside for them.

After inquires from The Times, state agencies in California, Florida, Georgia and Virginia are looking into whether production companies violated child labor laws while filming in their states.

Read the full story here: Reality TV kids don't have a legal safety net

-- Matea Gold

Photo: Jim Bob Duggar, who appears with his family on TLC's "19 Kids And Counting," told The Times that they do not consider the filming work. Credit: TLC