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HomeentertainmentNBCUniversal Accused of “Grotesque and Depraved Mistreatment” on Reality TV Series

NBCUniversal Accused of “Grotesque and Depraved Mistreatment” on Reality TV Series

NBCUniversal’s general counsel on Thursday received a letter from top Hollywood lawyers alleging that “a day of reckoning” is coming because of the “sordid and dark underbelly” of the media giant’s reality television empire.

According to the letter, veteran entertainment attorneys Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos together represent “a significant number” of people employed by or contracted with Bravo Media, E! and CNBC, specifically “current and former cast members and crewmembers on some of NBC’s most lucrative reality TV shows.” (No specific individuals are named.)

Bethenny Frankel — one of the Real Housewives franchise breakouts — is said to be working with them and has called for reality TV stars to unionize amid the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

The letter alleges that cast members are fueled with alcohol while being deprived of food and sleep, denied mental health treatment and trapped in their series even under “dire circumstances.”

The reality television business is notorious for contracts that essentially allow them to do anything to talent and bind them to keep quiet about their experiences, but the lawyers allege the network has gone beyond the bounds of what is legally permissible for such agreements. The letter, which is embedded below, also alleges acts of sexual violence have been covered up.

“No doubt Bravo will aver that the cast members and crewmembers assumed these risks contractually, but the law does not countenance waiver of intentional misconduct or gross negligence,” writes Freedman in the letter. “On innumerable occasions, which we will further detail in due course, NBC has exceeded the moral and legal limits permissible in a civilized society governed by the rule of law. Undoubtedly, when fully apprised, the legal system — and the public — will agree. It goes without saying that the foregoing misconduct by NBCUniversal and/or its employees, contractors, and affiliates exposes NBCUniversal to significant legal liability for, among many other things, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, distribution of revenge porn, and false imprisonment. Again, our investigation is ongoing.”

These allegations come in the form of a litigation hold letter, which instructs NBCU to preserve potential evidence including internal communications and documents regarding related topics and all “audio and video of sexual activity involving cast members” the company has ever viewed or had in its possession.

An NBCUniversal spokesperson on Friday sent The Hollywood Reporter this statement: “NBCUniversal is committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for cast and crew on our reality shows.  At the outset, we require our third-party production partners to have appropriate workplace policies and training in place. If complaints are brought to our attention, we work with our production partners to ensure that timely, appropriate action is or has been taken, including investigations, medical and/or psychological support, and other remedial action that may be warranted such as personnel changes.”

Aug. 4, 1: 40 p.m. Updated with a statement from NBCUniversal.

NBCU Letter by THR



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