Easily one of the most controversial TV programs premiering this fall is the CBS “reality” series Kid Nation, in which a large group of youngsters, ages 8 to 15, spend 40 days in a New Mexico ghost town with nary an adult to tell them what to do. After reading a New York Times article that described conditions as unsafe (several youngsters required medical attention after drinking bleach left in an unmarked bottle) and perhaps in violation of state and federal child welfare laws — charges that CBS strenuously denies — Michael Slezak wrote a PW item in which he questioned the
sanity judgment of those parents who allowed their kids to participate in this ratings-chasing televised stunt.
In case you were wondering exactly what kind of contract these parents signed, the FOIA-wielding rascals at The Smoking Gun used an open records request to procure a copy of the 22-page document. It makes for some frightening and fascinating reading.
Parents, we learn, signed away their right to sue the producers for letting their children take part in a program set in “inherently dangerous travel areas that may expose the Minor and other participants to a variety of unmarked and uncontrollable hazards and conditions that may cause the Minor serious bodily injury, illness or death, including, without limitation: general exposure to extremes of heat and cold; water hazards; floods; drowning…” the list goes on and also takes into account “encounters with wild or domesticated animals“ (page 3)
The youthful contestants will certainly take away some important lessons about the value of discretion — especially when their parents explain to them that anyone divulging any information about the show in violation of the Participant Agreement “shall pay to CBS as liquidated damages, and not as a penalty, the sum of five million dollars ($5,000,000)” (page 14)
There’s plenty more here, including who ultimately owns any photos and notes taken during the production (take a wild guess) and what specific bathroom activities could not be filmed.
Yes, this liability waiver is pretty much the same kind of boilerplate agreement you’d have to sign on any reality show on any network. But it’s kinda creepy when an 8-year-old is involved. Check it out — and share your thoughts.