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KIDS ON TV: IS REALITY RIGHT?

Hitting the headlines today – a Pennsylvania state lawmaker is taking a closer look at TLC’s Kate Plus 8…

Representative Thomas Murt wants to know if work permits were properly obtained for Kate Gosselin’s sextuplets for her realty show. Rep. But is that fair? There are many shows with families with kids on them, why single out the Gosselins?

Hitting the headlines today – a Pennsylvania state lawmaker is taking a closer look at TLC’s Kate Plus 8

Representative Thomas Murt wants to know if work permits were properly obtained for Kate Gosselin’s sextuplets for her realty show. Rep. But is that fair? There are many shows with families with kids on them, why single out the Gosselins?

For example:

TORI AND DEAN, HOME SWEET HOLLYWOOD: Tori Spelling was of course raised in the lap of luxury by her father, prolific TV producer Aaron Spelling and her mother Candy.  Tori, married Dean McDermott, moved out of Hollywood and opened a bed and breakfast. They have since left the B&B and moved back to Hollywood for four further seasons of the show renamed Tori and Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood. Their children play an integral role in the series.

LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG WORLD: This TLC offering follows the adventures of Matt and Amy Roloff who have dwarfism – as does one of their four children. While much of the focus of the show deals with the challenges of not being of average height, the children are also prominently featured.

19 AND COUNTING: Another TLC offering with children as the main focus. This one follows Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as they raise their very large family following strict Christian principles in Tontitown, Arkansas. We see them home schooling the kids and watch as the children use the buddy system to help raise younger children.

And what of TLC’s horrid offering TODDLERS AND TIARAS? That’s ALL about the kids and their mothers so desperately trying to live their unrequited dreams through them. Is it that we’re so horrified by the onstage antics that no one mentions these kids spending hours preening for the cameras?

Don’t get me wrong; I am not here to defend Kate Gosselin. I think kids should be allowed to remain children for as long as possible. That includes not having to worry about wardrobe or shooting schedules or having to be “on” for the cameras.  But at the end of the day, is it fair to use the Gosselins as an example without also shining the spotlight on these other families?

Now I have my own theory as to why politicians are targeting Kate Plus 8 in particular and it rests squarely on Mama Gosselin.

Like many of you, I’ve watched in horror at the way Kate talks to her kids, verbally emasculated her now ex-husband, Jon and in general acted entitled to the freebies that were bestowed upon them. She came across as brusque and ungrateful, completely counter to the woman who claims to be doing it all for the kids.

Then we had a front row seat to the implosion of their marriage. It splintered into a thousand pieces like a wooden chair under too much weight. That was followed by Kate’s numerous appearances on The Today Show telling the same sad tale. Soon after, Kate embarked on another book tour and a stint on Dancing with the Stars, where the world got to see a different side of her personality. Unfortunately for her, it was just as prickly as the side we’d already seen.

I think the reason Kate and her brood are singled out is that she is not the image of a mother that we have come to expect. She’s not a warm fuzzy type; when she cuddles with her kids it tends to look forced. That coupled with what appears to be her unbridled thirst for the spotlight (under the guise of doing it for the kids) I believe, is what fuels peoples’ ire toward her.

But what about these others? Why are they spared the same questions?

Should kids be allowed on docu-soaps at all – and if so – under what conditions?

I know this will be a hot one so fire away, what do you think?

13 Comments

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  2. Mike

    July 15, 2010 at 6:31 am

    If we consider reality television for what it should be, by definition, and we believe that the cameras are documenting how Kate “really” deals with her family, are the kids really working? It would seem they are just there. Not necessarily forced because they are kids and have no place else to be but at home with mom, no matter how bad she may be. Just a thought.

  3. Lisa Hazell

    July 15, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Of course those kids have work permits + are on camera within legal time frames…I hope, TLC?!!!

    We should shake our head @ the politician for trying to get publicity on the backs of babies!

    TLC’s Toddlers + Tiaras is spooky but loved the wacky depiction of the industry in Little Miss Sunshine! Thought I’d never stop laughing. alll crayzay!!!

    I advocate for all parents to live by their own definitions of what’s fab, good, not good, etc.

  4. kad

    July 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    ALL reality shows with children should be limited and monitored period. The Gosselins stand out, well for many reasons, like filming 3-4 days a week. And the first post said they are just there, that has been proven that wasnt the case. The children did reatakes and no matter what these kids acted different with cameras around and strangers in the house that they would have if no one was there. There was scripted episodes and planned events. Thats working. If you look at the whole story even prior to the six being born, I think you would agree with the frustration and outrage for these kids well being.

  5. Susan

    July 22, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    I think the point Rep Murt is trying to make is that there should be protections in place for children as far as work hours, workplace safety, distribution of pay, privacy issues of what can be filmed, schooling, etc. None of these have been regulated for kids appearing in reality tv shows and too often the people making the decisions for the kids are the ones who profit the most from the child’s labor. It’s why child labor laws were enacted for businesses way back when and why we need these laws in place today. As for the misguided notion that he’s picking on the Gosselins, as far as I know, they are the only family shooting in Pennsylvania right now that fall under Rep Murt’s jurisdiction. I’m sure he feels the same way about the Duggars and those kids on T&T but there’s not a whole lot he can do about them.

    How would you feel if your agent said to you “okay, you’re going to shoot a show where we follow you around three or four days a week with a camera, filming you on the toilet and changing clothes, capturing every emotion and meltdown you have with no say in the editing and by the way, you won’t be subject to any labor laws and I’ll be responsible for putting away an amount of money I feel is appropriate for your pay”? Sounds like an ideal job, no? That’s what the Gosselin kids have had to do for the last five years.

  6. Jen

    July 22, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    I think it’s fair to point out that Murt is a PA lawmaker. He can’t do much about families outside of PA. Then again, he can’t do much about this family anyway because TLC keeps greasing the right palms.

  7. Irene

    July 23, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Rene,
    Thanks for visiting Z on TV. It was great to hear from you. I came over to see your site.
    I am a mom of 8 and a television viewer. I used to be a fan of the TLC format reality shows. I watched alot of them & Kate Gosselin’s show where her children worked was one of them.
    I think it is much more complicated to say that Kate is being targeted….from what I have read, researched and tried to find out on my own, children in the reality tv genre is a very unregulated territory in the entertainment industry.
    Rep Murt is right to question and try to get clarification on the current child labor laws and permits. I called this week and talked to Deborah Wagner of the PA DOL… the permits the Gosselin children are working under are good ONLY in PA…and there is no evidence Permits for work were obtained in NY, Florida and/or Alaska….

    There is nothing mentioned in the PA Codes, it is very specific to ages 7 to under 18.

    http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/034/chapter11/subchapAtoc.html

    Section 7.1. … See More
    (a) The Department of Labor and Industry is hereby authorized to issue special permits for the employment of minors seven and under eighteen years of age in theatrical productions, musical recitals or concerts, entertainment acts, modeling, radio, television, motion picture making, or in other similar forms or media of entertainment in Pennsylvania where the performance of such minor is not hazardous to his safety or well-being, except as follows:
    (1) No such minor shall be permitted to perform after the hour of eleven-thirty in the evening.

    (2) No such minor shall be permitted to perform in any place or establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold or dispensed.

    (3) No such minor shall be permitted to perform in a boxing, sparring or wrestling match or exhibition or in an acrobatic or other act, performance or exhibition hazardous to his safety or well-being.

    (4) No such minor shall appear in more than two performances in any one day nor in more than eight performances in any one week.
    (a.1) In addition to any permit authorized by subsection (a), the department shall be authorized to issue special permits for the temporary employment of minors as part of the performing cast in the production of a motion picture, if the department determines that adequate provision has been made for the educational instruction, supervision, health and welfare of the minor. Unless the department determines that more restrictive conditions are necessary, special permits authorized by this subsection shall authorize minors to work as part of the performing cast for forty-four hours in any one week and eight hours in any one day. Time spent on the set or on location while on call shall be excluded from any calculation of the maximum number of hours authorized by this subsection if the department determines that adequate provision has been made for the child’s education, supervision and welfare during such intervals. The department may restrict the number of hours which may be spent on call by the minor. The department may waive, in whole or in part, restrictions contained in this act and in any other act, on the time of day or night allowed for engaging in the employment authorized by this subsection, if the department determines that such waiver is necessary to preserve the artistic integrity of the motion picture and further determines that such waiver will not impair the educational instruction, supervision, health and welfare of the minor. Special permits authorized by this subsection shall be valid for a period of time not to exceed six months. An issued permit shall state that no minor, allowed under the permit to be temporarily employed, may be allowed on a set during, or may otherwise watch, the filming or rehearsal for filming of any sexual act. Nothing in this section shall be construed to supersede or repeal in part 18 Pa.C.S. §5903 (relating to obscene and other sexual materials) or 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children).

    ((a.1) amended Dec. 21, 1998, P.L. 1908, No. 192)

    (a.2) A special permit shall not be required under this section for a minor who participates in a nonprofit, educational, theatrical production if there is informed, written consent of a parent or guardian; if the participation is for a period of no more than fourteen consecutive days; if the participation is not during school hours; and if the minor receives no direct or indirect remuneration. All other existing limitations of this section shall remain applicable.

    ((a.2) added Dec. 21, 1998, P.L. 1242, No. 158)

    (b) Rehearsals for performances as set forth in this section shall be permitted, providing the length of time and hours of starting and finishing such rehearsals added to performance duties are not such as to be injurious or harmful to the minor. Rehearsal time, if any, expected and the hours of starting and finishing same shall be set forth in the application as provided in this section, and the special permit issued shall state what rehearsal time is permissible.

    (c) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to supersede or repeal any provisions of this act unless and until such special permit is issued for any such performance or series of performances.

    (d) Application forms shall be in such form as shall be provided by the Department of Labor and Industry. Such forms shall be signed by both the employer of the minor and the parent or guardian of the minor, and shall contain the seal of a notary public and a statement that the facts as set forth in the application are true and correct. The application shall state what provisions are in effect to provide for the minor’s educational instruction, supervision, health and welfare and the safeguarding and conservation for the minor of the moneys derived from such performances. No special permit shall be issued for any performance where there is no adequate provision for such educational instruction, supervision, health and welfare and the safeguarding and conservation for the minor of the moneys derived from such performances.

    (e) Appeals of any decision under this section made by the Department of Labor and Industry shall be to the Industrial Board which will hold a hearing on same.

    ((e) repealed in part Apr. 28, 1978. P.O. 202, No. 53)

    (7.1 added Aug. 23, 1961, P.L. 1107, No. 494)

    Compiler’s Note: The acts of Jan. 6, 1970, 1969 P.L. 434, No. 185 and July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, No. 233, vested the jurisdiction of the courts named therein in the Commonwealth Court. The act of June 30, 1998, P.L. 475, No. 80 repealed this section insofar as it is inconsistent with that act.

    *****************************************************
    The Gosselin children and their images will forever be a thumbprint on the internet, dvd, blogs, etc. The kids have no say…one day TLC will walk away and tell these kids…your parents signed on the dotted line. And, that goes for other children in these shows too.

    The link below is a map of the entire U.S and an overview of the laws or no laws in each state. A 3rd grader could understand the language.

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/childentertain2009.htm

    To date: The WE channels Masche production company has not gotten permits in FL, The Duggars in AR….I could go on.

    **********************************************************

    Children are not a Kommodity and our society is only as good as how we treat our children. My case against Kate Gosselin is she is willing to exploit her children because being a television personality is more important to her than being a mom. She could have protected her children alot better than she has and the fact that she refuses to reflects more and more on her desperation to continue without any forethought that all this could hurt her children in the long run.

    Thanks for hearing me out and good luck on all your endeavours….

  8. P.J.

    July 24, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Well said Irene.
    If you visit the Z on TV website and check out the archives, you’ll see that a lot of the shows you mentioned, LPBW, 20 kids and Counting, Toddlers and Tiaras have been discussed and deconstructed many times. We are against all children being used to earn money and put into physical danger just to make a tv show.

    Lisa, you claim a politician is trying to get publicity on the backs of babies? REP MURT of the state of PA was contacted by concerned advocates for children and DID HIS JOB! The only one trying to get publicity and make money is Kate Gosselin.

    As for Tori and Dean, they are REAL performers. I disagree with your statement that the children play an integral part in the show. There was a show long before the kids were around. And of all people on the planet, Tori Spelling knows what it’s like to grow up Hollywood and knows how to protect her children.

  9. P.J.

    July 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    P.S.

    “Like many of you, I’ve watched in horror at the way Kate talks to her kids, verbally emasculated her now ex-husband, Jon and in general acted entitled to the freebies that were bestowed upon them. She came across as brusque and ungrateful, completely counter to the woman who claims to be doing it all for the kids.”

    It has very little to do with our expectations of what a mother should be, and everything to do with what she should NOT be. She’s been lying and bilking money out of people for years and using her children to do it. While I’m against the dangers children face with the production of reality tv, I don’t believe any of the other shows mentioned do that.

  10. Rene Syler

    July 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Hey Irene:
    Thanks so much for the detailed response. There was a lot here I was not aware of. I will be watching to see how this pans out.

    Thanks for your well wishes and please keep checking in here 🙂

  11. Karen

    July 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    The Gosselins were greedy grifters before we ever saw their kids on television. I agree sincerely with Irene’s comments. I, too, used to be a viewer of the J + K + 8 show. I had to stop watching when I realized how mean spirited Kate was toward her family (kids included). We had no right to view some of the scenes we were privy to see. Sad loss of judgment on the part of the parents and TLC. This saga will not end well. Thinking of the Dionne Quints in particular, those people did not fare well into their adult years. Very tragic story all for the love of money. They were exploited by the Canadian Government and the Doctor who delivered them into the world.

    Fame, fortune, time as a tv star could never replace a child’s life in a loving, caring, normal household. As Jodi and Kevin Kreider indicated earlier this year, the Gosselin kids have been robbed of their childhood. It will be a miracle if there is enough money put away for them to all finish college. Remember, TLC and their parents have made millions! They are also flying through that money.

  12. barbee

    July 25, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    we seem to single kate out because of her continual lies, her abrasive attitude, her air of entitlement, her excessive greed, and, oh yes, MAINLY, because we see what her eagerness to feed her quest for stardom is coming at the HUGE cost of her childrens childhoods. there are contant examples shown of most of her kids NOT liking or wanting the attention foisted on them (i.e., hiding their faces, telling the cameras verbally or with signs to go away, etc.).
    I look forward to seeing your upcoming show, as ALL of the women appearing on it have some talent other than the desire to be a celebrity. it is hard to understand why kate is ‘given’ so much and accorded such attention AND it is disgust with that which fuels my anger with her continued appearances on any show ignorant enough to feature her. She is taking away shows I would watch one appearance at a time on them. anyway, thanks for being one of a group to give me something to watch in the future and PLEASE don’t have her as a guest or co-host, PLEASE!

  13. Janet

    July 26, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Hello Rene

    I’ve posted many times on Z’s blogs regarding minors in reality TV. I’m a mom, a child adovcate and work with a network of about 1,600 parents of child performers and their children. I also volunteered for awhile as parent liasion for the SAG Young Performer’s Committtee..relaying concerns parents have while their children work in this industry. I became an advocate for the children after my own child became involved with the performing arts and I saw that it was not at all a welcoming place for minors and watched as the producers lobbied Albany with NY’s Child Performer Education and Trust Act of 2003, stating that if they had to provide a teacher on set, per the law, for each day the child could not attend their regular classes due to their work schedule, they would move their productions, which are very mobile to a state with lesser child labor restrictions! Z’s blogs relating to Kate plus 8 describe what happened after this. NJ had to “revisit” their law, we’ll say for now, so PA is not the first state ever questioned about their work permits. In 2004 the Deputy Attorney General called an emergent meeting with the theatrical Unions, AICP (commercial producers) NJ Dept of Labor, NJ Film Commission, NJ Dept of Education and others to make sure there was full understanding of the law, make sure there was full enforcement and full compliance! There was also action taken from The White House and Federal Dept of Labor asking the Dept of Labor in NJ to make sure this issue was addressed. That’s about all they could do. The federal Gov’t cannot enforce state labor laws because of the Federal exemption for minors in entertainment, FLSA “newsie” exemption of 1938, newspaper carriers included. With the changing media since 1938 sadly and ironically the FEderal Child Labor Laws has been amended numerous times, yet no one has EVER attempted to amend the law with regard to minors in entertainment and for that reason we are now looking at producers who put their noses up to all the laws and industry regulations (our theatrical union contracts) and simply state that no employer/employee relationship has been established, thus they are not working and then why the need for work permits! So their statement of “we did not break any child labor laws” or “we are complying with the state child labor law” in that respect holds true..however speaks LOUD and clear that they maneuvered around our theatrical contracts by offering participant reality TV show contracts, called the children participants instead of establishing an employee/employer relationship and the parents agreed to this as well, quit their day jobs and put their noses up to ALL of the rest of children out there who are working in this industry and want to work under child labor protections and all of us and the theatrical unions who have worked DECADES to negotiate with producers and establish industry standards for minors to protect their money, their welfare, their safety and education and defied all of this and said, who needs it and put their signatures on that contract and relied on the children to provide for the family. To deny that is wrong. The Coogan Act was passed so that it would never ever again be “family” money. We know all too well the stories of minors working their entire childhood and then at 18 seeing their bank accounts empty. For a parent to state that these children were NOT working and just running and having fun..well I am sorry, talk to a person that has been involved now for a good solid 14 years behind the scenes, following every child performer bill, working with the theatrical unions, advocating for the children, working with Gov’t agencies on a legislative level when child performer bills are on the table and seeing this industry from the inside out and those children are absolutely “working” and selling advertiser’s products by wearing them, eating/drinking them, visiting their establishments and begining each episode with a scripted and prompted line “this episode of ……” A participant contract for a reality TV show has decided that the children are not “working” well then we can also say that children working as extras (background) on movie sets playing in the park on swings, no lines to say or even in commercials, riding bike on screen for less than 3 seconds after editing are not “working” however, they are and require work permits and if the work permits are not with the child they are sent home and/or production can be shut down by law enforcement agents who do ask at times for shoots outside. I know, I was there a few times when this happened.

    In PA, although some people believe that Rep Murt has proposed this bill just to focus in on Jon and Kate, the fact is that there was a bill proposed in 2008 “Child Labor Act of 2008) which did not move forward! I know the “fans” of this show want to believe that someone is trying to put the whammy on it and squash it, but ACTUALLY it was the Secretary of Labor, Sandi Vito who testified in front the Legislative Committee in 2008 that she had worries about the Child Labor Act and the language within the bill did not properly address all the issues that needed to be addressed in a few areas of child labor INCLUDING minors in entertainment! HB 2369!

    http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/TR/transcripts/2008_0128_0002_TSTMNY.pdf

    Her silence baffles me currently and through all of the press coverage regarding the work permits with this production as she SPECIFICALLY stated in her testimony that she had concerns about “Entertainment Permits” for minors for TV and Movies and that they did not adequately address the current business changes in production within the state of PA as production has increased. She had many concerns and even offered to DRAFT and amendment with specific language that would!

    So why has there been silence from this office? Did anyone know there was a previous bill in PA. We all surely did, the theatrical union did, some very active parents with children in the biz did, parent advocate for children in the industry did…so why was there no research by investigative reporters mentioning this? Instead there is article after article with headlines saying State Legislative member proposing a Jon and Kate law or wants to shut down production or state fingerpointing Kate Plus 8 when in 2008 legislative members tried unsuccessfully to revisit their law to protect ALL MINORS in all areas of child labor and the Secretary of Labor although supportive of the bill testified that the language within the law would leave loopholes and not properly address the children’s welfare…also specifying entertainment permits, issues with enforcement of the law, compliance with the law as well.

    Why did she not press forward with a new draft of the bill? Where is it? It seems to me that the only person who took the baton and went forward to try and revisit the entire law and try and close up the loopholes that the Secretary testified about was Rep Murt! And right now he is trying to ask a simple question because as Irene has noted above, which I did provide that information, is that nowhere in the entire law or it’s language does it refer to or state that a minor under 7 can work! The PA Codes defining the law as well (all in Z’s blog) only refer to minors 7 and under 18, so the regulations as well only refer to that age group. Somewhere there is floating statements that infants and minors under 7 can work with a special permit but Rene, there is no language stating so in the law and no legislative amendments so Rep Murt is right on target asking this question and if he didn’t ask it and wrote the bill with a loophole in it..would that be the right thing to do? He’s an excellent lawmaker and has done more research on this than anyone in the state cared to do previously and take action on it, unlike Secretary Vito who has remained silent even after testifying that there were issues with the work permit.

    So there is a special work permit. Who within the DOL had the authority to change the law and make a determination that minors under 7 and infants can be cast, I believe it says, in motion pictures with a special work permit? We need more documentation and any legislative member who is drafting a law that will affect infants and their welfare and toddlers, small children under the age of 7 SHOULD BE asking these questions and not being put down for doing so. Those people who are doing so are misinformed and blinded by the Hollywood sign just as two parents were and all the others who quit their day jobs and rely on this industry and their children to pay the rent.

    Media is changing and laws have to change so no child is left unprotected and there are 8 little guys in this state that were thrown into reality TV show craziness and their images all over the internet on blogs and youtube videos with adults commenting on them with language I would never want to repeat. They will have deal with this one day when they sit in front of their own laptop computers and read all about what happened after mommy and daddy signed that contract.

    The other shows you mention, Rene, Tori and Dean, they are working within the California regulations governing minors and work permits in place. There has to be compliance in California. Rep Murt can only address PA, he cannot address other states. Reality TV in other states, NY, NJ, including Bravo’s Real Housewives their laws have no language pertaining to reality TV, however we are hoping in NY as they draft regulations (which INTERESTING enough had to pass an amendment in 2008 that allowed the NYS DOL to draft regulations as there was missing language in the law allowing them to do so) so they could not change the law on their own and write regulations. NY has been without regulations since 2004 when the law was enforced…so how did PA change the law and its intent that no minor under 7 can work without a legislative amendment. If this has been done legally..well sobeit, but show us this legal determination.

    Please do not feel that all of these reality TV shows are going under the radar. The LA Times article listed most of the shows and their investigative report and all Dept of Labor’s are aware and it will be a state by state determination and tough one with states with no laws on the book to address this. What should be taking place is for the producers of these shows to address the children’s welfare by establishing an employer/employee relationship, not deeming the kids not working and just participants or living props is a better choice of words, instead of using them/enaging them in their projects and say they are just being kids. Then all applicable laws/regulations will follow, but then, this will cost the production company money…and the money has to be in the production company’s piggy bank, not the children’s. Family money…history will repeat itself. The Coogan Act was passed for a reason.

    Rene you are working within this industry…you should undertand what takes place. I do, unfortuanately maybe I’ve seen too much and the smoke screen put up by this industry that all is well with the kiddies is coming down with a very educated public talking about child labor laws..which is wonderful for the kids to have people on their side for a change.

    Rep Murt is a trailblazer. There only a few states who stepped forward to protect minors in entertainment. One Gov’t official in 2008 in PA used her voice very loudly and clearly trying to address minors in entertainment..so why the crickets now and the one person trying to help getting hid on the head for doing so?

    Thank you

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