Reality Writers Make Real Noise

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The Writers Guild of America West, which is battling the networks over better pay and benefits for reality TV writers, among other issues, is turning up the heat just a week after electing new president Patric M. Verrone.

Executive Director John McClean is out, replaced in the interim by David Young, who spearheaded the organizing of reality writers over the past year.

In addition, the guild said Wednesday that reality shows are being turned into "infomercials" by product placement.

Activist slates have swept guild elections on both coasts, vowing to better organize and start pushing on various fronts, including reality TV.

In that context, the move could be seen as a shot meant to put an embarrassing spotlight on the nets in Washington, particularly given FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein's vow to more closely monitor plugs and placements, though he has no trouble with them so long as they are appropriately identified as such.

“What we are seeing now in television, and in particular reality television, is that product integration is blurring the line between advertising and content,” said Verrone.

But it could also be an attempt to get a cut of that placement dough for the people who have to write the products into the show.

“Given the critical role that they play in this process, one would assume that writers and editors would be welcomed as participants in a significant conference on this topic," said Verrone, "but they were not.”

He was referring to what he said was the absence of reality writers at Ad Age's “Madison and Vine” conference Tuesday as part of Ad Week in New York. Among the topics of conversation: product integration.

Verrone said reality writers and producers teamed with an improv group, Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, to stage a street parody outside the conference.

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