NBCUniversal and its subsidiaries Bravo Media, E! and CNBC stand accused of a “pattern and practice of grotesque and depraved mistreatment” against the talent and crews of their numerous hit reality series, according to a letter sent Thursday to the media conglomerate’s legal team.
“These individuals have been mentally, physically, and financially victimized by NBC and threatened with ruin should they decide to speak out about their mistreatment. As a result, the sordid and dark underbelly of NBC’s widely consumed reality TV universe has remained under wraps for far too long,” the letter read. “Please be advised that the day of reckoning has arrived.”
The letter, sent to NBCUniversal’s general counsel Kimberley Harris from attorneys Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos, warned the company to hold onto any relevant records “until further notice” as potential legal action looms.
In the letter, Freedman and Geragos included a detailed list of claims from “a significant number of individuals” who are former or current members of cast and crew from unscripted shows within the NBCUniversal umbrella, including:
- Deliberate attempts to manufacture mental instability by plying cast members with alcohol while depriving them of food and sleep
- Denying mental health treatment to cast members displaying obvious and alarming signs of mental deterioration
- Exploiting minors for uncompensated and sometimes long-term appearances on NBC reality TV shows
- Distributing and/or condoning the distribution of nonconsensual pornography
- Covering up acts of sexual violence
- Refusing to allow cast members the freedom to leave their shows, even under dire circumstances
“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,” the letter read.
“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,” a spokesperson for NBCUniversal said in a statement. “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.”
The letter arrives as Hollywood’s historic double strike put a spotlight on reality television production. The current work stoppage on scripted series left broadcast networks relying on game shows and other unscripted content to fill up their upcoming fall schedules.
“Real Housewives of New York City” alum Bethenny Frankel has also spoke out expressing her desire to start a movement for reality television talent to unionize.
“Change takes courage,” she said in an Instagram video last month. “I’ve alienated this industry and burned bridges with the entire network and streaming community in one fell swoop. This is not for the faint of heart, but it’s for the greater good.”