NBCUniversal Strengthens Workplace Conduct Guidelines For Reality Shows


EXCLUSIVE: Reality television is beloved for its unhinged characters and crazy on-screen behavior.
But behind the scenes, producers ensure that the production process is as dutiful as it can be.
Deadline understands that NBCUniversal is now looking to update and bolster its workplace conduct guidelines for these productions.
The company, which is behind unscripted hits such as The Real Housewives franchise, Below Deck, Vanderpump Rules and competition series such as The Traitors and America’s Got Talent, is now increasing its requirements around anti-discrimination and harassment policies, making an inclusive workplace and channels to report concerns and violations.
We hear that Frances Berwick, Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment, has just sent a note out to external production companies to inform them of the changes and Deadline has obtained a copy of the note.
The first point of the note highlights alcohol.
“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.
This comes after Bravo’s Below Deck Down Under faced an alcohol-related issue with some of its stars. Two crew members were fired due to their non-consensual sexual advances to co-workers; Bosun Luke Jones and second steward Laura Bileskalne were kicked off the yacht for misconduct after producers had to step in following a scary moment that saw Jones climb naked into the bed of another cast member who was too intoxicated to consent and producers could be heard telling him to exit.
Elsewhere, it is stepping up its position around psychological well-being. The company already requires all reality participants to meet with a psychologist prior to filming and are provided with psychological support during and after filming to the extent needed and some shows are required to have on-site psychological support.
Now, there must be psychological care after filming that includes mental health support to cast through the airing of the show and beyond, including mandatory on-set support during reunion tapings.
NBCU wants increased visibility and communication, meaning an expanded pre-production meeting to ensure that all relevant personnel at the production companies are aware of NBCU’s policies and protocols. It is also implementing additional measures to “enhance” communication between the conglom and production companies including a mandatory on-set production company HR presence for shows where NBCU determines additional support may be warranted, daily communication to NBCU separate from general production notes and a full review after production wraps.
It is also asking for enhanced workplace training specifically tailored to unscripted production environment and all principals of production companies, “including those that only occasionally interact with cast and crew”, will be required to attend training. It is also implementing “more serious consequences for physical violence on set”.
Finally, Berwick addresses confidentially clauses.
This comes after The Real Housewives of New York alum Bethenny Frankel started working with lawyers including Bryan Freedman and supported by SAG-AFTRA on a campaign for fair conditions for reality stars, which she has dubbed a “reality reckoning”.
One of Frankel’s biggest beefs is what she called “unrealistic NDAs”
NBCUniversal and Bravo, in particular, has made clear that its confidentiality clauses are not intended to prevent disclosure by cast and crew of unlawful acts in the workplace and says that it has 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 added.
Berwick, who was promoted in July following the departure of Susan Rovner and the installation of Donna Langley as Chairman, NBCUniversal Studio Group & Chief Content Officer, added that over the next few days the company will provide production companies with these revised production guidelines and is setting meetings with production teams.
“We believe [our] 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,” she said.


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