Entertainment Law

Did 'Kid Nation' Abuse Children?

It almost sounds like a law school exam question. Forty children, ages 8 to 15, are reportedly transported, without their parents, to a ranch in the New Mexico desert near Santa Fe. There they live and work together for 40 days, building a town and a society, supervised only by the producers of a new reality television show, Kid Nation. Could this situation pose any legal issues?

Those responsible for the new CBS show, which is to premiere Sept. 19, say they violated no laws. But the New Mexico attorney general’s office is now investigating possible child labor law violations during the April and May filming. Plus, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announced Friday it is investigating whether the production violated the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practices for Network Television Broadcasting, reports the Los Angeles Times. Amateur contestants may not be covered by this code, however.

Questions now being asked about the production focus on possible overwork and unsafe conditions, according to the New York Times.

A 22-page contract signed by participants and their parents provides for a $5,000 stipend, but expressly says it isn’t an employment agreement, the newspaper reports. However, another Times article says a lawyer at the attorney general’s office stated in a letter that a child’s presence at a work site could be prima facie evidence of employment. The Times says participants in the reality program may have worked 14-hour days.

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