The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is the CBS Television Network. They get the award for the following.
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 17 — The ads promoting “Kid Nation,” a new reality show coming to CBS next month, extol the incredible experience of a group of 40 children, ages 8 to 15, who built a sort of idealistic society in a New Mexico ghost town, free of adults. For 40 days the children cooked their own meals, cleaned their own outhouses, formed a government and ran their own businesses, all without adult intervention or participation.Accidents happen with unsupervised children all the time. That isn't why CBS gets today's award.
To at least one parent of a participant, who wrote a letter of complaint to New Mexico state officials after the show had completed production, the experience bordered on abuse and neglect. Several children required medical attention after drinking bleach that had been left in an unmarked soda bottle, according to both the parent and CBS. One 11-year-old girl burned her face with splattered grease while cooking.
The children were made to haul wagons loaded with supplies for more than a mile through the New Mexico countryside, and they worked long hours — “from the crack of dawn when the rooster started crowing” until at least 9:30 p.m., according to Taylor, a 10-year-old from Sylvester, Ga., who was made available by CBS to respond to questions about conditions on the set.Now this is a violation of labor laws. Children are allowed to work only certain hours of the day, and with limits on the amounts. What the heck got into CBS' mind? Child labor for television ratings. Makes a wonderful headline doesn't it?
A New Mexico official whose department oversees licensing of congregant child-care settings said in an interview that the project almost assuredly violated state laws requiring facilities that house children be reviewed and licensed.They had children working during the school year with little adult supervision. Tell me what's right about that.
The official, Romaine Serna, public information officer for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, said Friday that CBS had never contacted the agency. If the department had known of the parent’s allegations when the incidents occurred, she said, “We would have responded and would have assured the children’s safety.”
CBS officials say they broke no laws. “We feel very comfortable that this was appropriate from a legal point of view,” Ghen Maynard, the executive vice president for alternative programming at CBS, said in an interview Friday.
Ed at Captain's Quarters points out.
The question of how CBS accomplished the feat of taking 40 young children into the New Mexico desert for nearly six weeks during the middle of the school year, allowing them almost no contact with their parents, in order to produce a television show has attracted attention. The network has heavily promoted “Kid Nation,” which executives are hoping will be one of its breakout hits this fall.The Coogan laws were enacted to prevent exploitation of children. Most states have these laws, some states are tougher than others. CBS picked where they would do this show and what for? Ratings of course. The children got a $5000 stipend. Big Deal!
New Mexico's child protection services are not amused. They have indicated that had they known CBS had set up a residential facility for the children, they would have taken steps to ensure that CBS followed the law. In fact, the network never bothered to contact the Children, Youth and Families Department. The state sent a labor inspector to the set, but the producers didn't allow an inspection to occur, according to New Mexico.
This takes child exploitation back to 1930s Hollywood. Regardless of whether CBS thinks this was some grand sociological experiment, the bottom line is that they had these kids working in harsh and apparently somewhat unsafe conditions for fifteen or more hours a day. They provided little adult supervision -- in fact, that was the point of the production -- and no educational support, even though this took place during a school year.
And for what purpose? CBS just wanted another cutting-edge reality series. They wanted "Survivor -- The Elementary School Edition".
And why New Mexico? Well, that's where the story hits at the heart of CBS and Viacom, its parent corporation. New Mexico doesn't have all of those restrictive laws regarding child labor in the entertainment industry. CBS scouted for a location where those restrictions would not interfere with their pursuit of a unique concept that would draw viewers and advertisers. Never mind that those laws in California, New York, and other entertainment centers protect children from exploitative conditions and physical harm.
Note- The parents of these children aren't innocents in this affair. That doesn't excuse what CBS did.
For abusing and exploiting children for television ratings, The CBS Television Network is today's Knucklehead of the Day.
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