NBC is abusing reality TV stars, Hollywood lawyers allege

Though not named in Mark Geragos and Bryan Freedman’s letter, shows covered by the accused networks include “America’s Got Talent,” the “Housewives” franchise, and the “Kardashian” franchise. Photo by Shutterstock.

Two Hollywood attorneys are accusing NBCUniversal and its affiliate channels (Bravo, E!, and CNBC) of subjecting reality TV stars and crews to “grotesque and depraved mistreatment.” In a letter sent to network officials, they say NBCU covered up sexual violence, forced minors to work long hours, and created mental instability among cast members by serving them alcohol while denying them food and sleep. In a statement, NBCUniversal insists they are committed to maintaining a safe and respectful work environment for cast and crew. 

The letter is a “litigation hold,” explains Ashley Cullins, senior business editor at The Hollywood Reporter. “It's basically just saying, ‘We have allegations. We think you might have documents that prove our allegations, and don't delete any of those.’”

Mark Geragos (who defended Michael Jackson) and Bryan Freedman are the attorneys here, reportedly hired by TV personality Bethenny Frankel (“The Real Housewives of New York City”), who’s been pushing reality show workers to unionize. Cullins says Geragos and Freedman “are the guys you hire when you're gearing up for an all-out battle.”

However, Cullins views the two issues — the push to unionize and these new abuse allegations — as separate complaints. 

“I think they're just parallel paths toward fighting for the same thing, which is being treated well and being compensated fairly. When you're talking about just payment in general and residuals, there's a whole different process for dealing with that. … But when you're talking about maybe crew members who witnessed something that they thought was unfair or potentially even illegal, but felt like they couldn't voice that, that's a different process for trying to get a solution to those grievances.”