NBCUniversal Updates Reality Show Workplace Conduct Guidelines, Expands Alcohol Trainings and Mental Health Support

The new rules follow a push for unionization among unscripted talent

NBCUniversal logo (NBCUniversal)

NBCUniversal has reworked its workplace guidelines for reality TV series, amid a push for unionization among unscripted talent, TheWrap has learned. It will be expanding existing protocols, including alcohol trainings and mental health support.

Chairman of NBCUniversal Entertainment, Frances Berwick, issued a note to the external production companies NBCU works with on signature series Friday, detailing its list of modifications to its company conduct guidelines.

“As you know, for the past several years, NBCUniversal has provided workplace conduct guidelines to the production companies who produce unscripted programming for its networks and platforms,” Berwick wrote. “These include requirements that the production companies must adopt, including anti-discrimination and harassment policies, mandatory trainings on how to maintain a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace for all cast and crew, channels for cast and crew to report any issues of concern, instructions on when production companies must notify NBCU of potential policy violations, and protocols for NBCU oversight of investigations.”

The note continued, mentioning one of its first amendments would be to its current alcohol mandate.

“Building on our current protocols, we will require that you deliver an expanded alcohol-related training to the cast, crew and production team, which must include details on how production will monitor alcohol, including when consumption limits may be appropriate and when and how to intervene to maintain cast and crew safety,” Berwick wrote.

Additionally, the corporation will implement mental health support groups for show casts, which will take place after and during the filming process of a series and while the show is airing. The psychological care will also be available — and mandatory — for cast members during the tapings of reunion shows.

Prior to this update, NBCUniversal had already provided required meetings for cast members with psychologists before the start of filming, and were given mental health care during and after production.

“We believe these standards have promoted a safer and more respectful work environment. That said, we want to take the opportunity in collaboration with the production companies to continue to strengthen our approach. To that end, we have developed additional resources, policies and protocols that will further enhance the workplace environments on our third-party productions and will strengthen our oversight,” Berwick said in the letter.

The note also highlighted plans to “implement more serious consequences for physical violence on set.”

This all comes as conversations of misconduct and fair pay disputes abound in the reality television sector. It’s become part of a conversation related to the strikes, as reality stars like Bethenny Frankel have spoken out about a need for reality TV to be protected by a union.

“Like anything that is a movement, or a revolution, it takes a lot of different factors to come together, and I don’t know that this time, there are those factors happening,” unscripted producer Justin Hochberg, who has served as an EP on shows including “The Apprentice” and “Buying Beverly Hills,” previously told TheWrap.

On top of the increased alcohol trainings and psychological assistance, the corporation will increase its communication and visibility with production companies and “enhance” trainings within its unscripted sector, tailoring it to employees who “occasionally interact with cast and crew.” The course will be mandatory for said workers.

NBCU will also expand its pre-production meetings in order to ensure all cast, crew and productions members are fully aware of NBCU’s policies.

As for its confidentiality clauses, NBCU stated “clauses are not intended to prevent disclosure by cast and crew of unlawful acts in the workplace and we have not enforced them in that manner. We expect that production companies will ensure that all talent and crew agreements have confidentiality language that carves out reporting of unlawful conduct.”

Berwick concluded his note saying: “In the next few days, we will provide you with revised production guidelines that lay out the specifics of all the enhancements, and we will be scheduling time with your team to discuss any implementation questions you may have.”