The hard work of reality TV

Enduring poolside lounging, shouting matches and trysts that are over before the commercial break may look like fun and games, but a French court ruled last week that appearing in a reality TV show is, in fact, work—work that’s worth $1,900 a day.

French lawyer Jérémie Assous convinced the country’s highest court in 2009 that contestants who appeared on the French version of Temptation Island (a bikini-themed show in which couples’ fidelities are tested) were entitled to contracts and salaries—just like professional actors. After nearly two years of wrangling over the details, an appeals court decided that participants should be allowed benefits, a 35-hour workweek, and overtime, in addition to the $1,900 day rate (more than what a minimum-wage worker in France earns in a month). French production companies are likely reacting with their own hand-wringing, as the ruling could cost them over $71 million in back pay—mind you, that’s roughly what the Idol franchise brought in during three months in 2009.

Having set a precedent, Assous is now in talks with reality stars the world over. “I have no moral objection to reality TV and it has never been my intention to destroy it,” he told the Guardian, “but participants have to be treated fairly.”

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