Copyright (c) 2007 Yeshiva University
Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal
ARTICLE: PRIMETIME CRIMES: ARE REALITY TELEVISION PROGRAMS "ILLEGAL CONTESTS" IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW
25 Cardozo Arts & Ent LJ 141
In the summer of 2000, Survivor burst onto the television screen with a format that changed the nature of television programming. Combining elements of game shows and The Real World, Survivor introduced nouveau reality television. 1 Although reality television had existed before, it had never looked like this. 2 Not only did the novel format draw large, demographically-cherished audiences, but also it was relatively inexpensive to produce. Thus, in a programming environment where networks were eager to cut costs and increasingly reluctant to pour dollars into developing new shows, reality television seemed a godsend.
Like most things that seem too good to be true, however, reality television may not be what it initially appeared to be. Taking a cue from the quiz show scandals, reality television contestants are beginning to complain that these "real" shows are tainted by producer deception. Insiders allege that producers are altering outcomes, secretly assisting demographically-favored contestants, and manipulating the reality presented. Indeed, recent legal actions assert that, because many of these programs are contests, producer interference runs afoul of the "quiz show statute," codified at 47 U.S.C. §509. 3
Despite the salience of the quiz show statute to contemporary reality television, neither courts nor scholars have subjected the statute to any in-depth legal analysis. Nonetheless, since reality television has evolved from a broadcasting fad to a staple of prime-time television, and since legal complaints regarding the genre are becoming increasingly common, an understanding of ...
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