After last night, I’m pretty sure I’ll never want to be on a reality TV show.
This week’s Nerds Assemble podcast features a guest, Alex Boyall, who was recently on Geeks, which has been airing on E4 and is produced for them by an external production company. Once you get to around the 45 minutes mark in our podcast episode, we begin to discuss Alex’s participation on Geeks. The show sees two groups of “geeks” (considering that Alex is a Tuba player and the producers were contrasting a brass band with cosplayers in this episode, there’s some interesting interpretations of the term “geek” at work here) taken to clubbing hotspots and forced into situations which most people would stereotype as making the geeks feel uncomfortable.
Obviously we’ve all heard about how much of most reality TV is actually manufactured pap, but it’s not until you hear someone like Alex describe just what had been made artificial that you realise that calling this stuff reality TV is a huge misnomer. And this was only one of the many problems with the show and others like it.
The other problem that worried me was hearing the constraints placed by the contracts they signed. It turns out that in Alex’s case, and the rest of the brass banders, that in their contracts they had signed away their “moral rights”, which is a pretty big deal in UK copyright law. That’s not to say that all reality TV shows ask contestants to sign this away, but that it did happen in this instance.
With one aspect of these rights, it’s better to explain with an example than to quote law here – a few years ago, the Kaiser Chiefs launched a complaint (based on moral rights) against the BNP who had used their song “I Predict A Riot” in a political video. The Kaiser Chiefs being the kind of chaps they are, really didn’t want to be associated with the BNP. This comes under: “right to object to derogatory treatment”. The other aspects of the law here that were being signed away – that would have been relevant – includes the “right to be identified” and the “right to privacy”.
The significance of the above of course means that, essentially, the brass banders had signed away a significant proportion of their rights to object to the finished piece of content. I find this very troubling.