Thank you for writing to A Minor Consideration and for sharing your views on “Jon & Kate.”There are too many emails to answer individually (and that’s a good thing, actually), so we hope you will understand this generalized ‘fact sheet.’ Our “position,” with “Jon & Kate + 8” is essentially this:
“Jon & Kate + 8” is a commercial enterprise employing dozens of adults throughout the distribution and production chain. Raw footage is edited for entertainment value, which means content can be, and most certainly is, manipulated.
Eight children are in no position to disobey. They ‘belong’ to their parents who, by Law, are “entitled to their custody, income and services.” That’s straight out of American Common Law. The question is, do these “chattels” have rights?
“J&K+8” is not reality. The show is not a scientific study. Everyone knows, kids included, that cameras are present. There are sponsors and lucrative endorsements deals. A professional management firm handles hefty appearance fees, the impending DVD release, marketable books and publicity. Go here: An American Family.
We at AMC are not in the business of judging moral content, nor bent on removing distasteful or questionable shows from the air. Our focus will always be on the employment and utilization of children in what are loosely called entertainment vehicles. Our concerns stretch beyond the real-time involvement and inherent risks of the work place, to the distant and uncertain future of children who, denied the power to disagree with risky parental decision-making, will have to bear the unique and sometimes deadly consequences of fame, often involving circumstances where they were not adequately compensated for the unintended distortions that will, please believe us on this score, last a lifetime. The images never go away. Never. Go here: Dionne quintuplets.
We believe that well-compensated adults engaged on a project that employs children are in no position, morally, ethically or legally, to tell anyone that the children being recorded for commercial purposes are just “participants” and not performers. What’s “good for the goose” must apply.
The child labor laws say this: “The continuing presence of children in the work place constitutes employment.” This was the position of New Mexico in the aftermath of “Kid Nation” and it is generally utilized by the Department of Labor as a barometer to judge whether or not a child in a commercial environment where adults are being paid for their labor are workers in fact and deed or just along for the ride.
We also categorically state that the presence of cameras capturing the images of children are a de facto declaration of intent to broadcast such images (in any form) and thus are subject to the rules that 90 years of history have created, rules which the Business calls “Custom and Practice.”
In the commercial world of television there are no innocent volunteers. From the background performers to the director and crew there are long-established union and non-union guidelines for compensation, and each adult engaged on a project works and is paid under their individual social security number. So, too, with children. Declaring that a child who appears on-camera is a voluntary participant virtually guarantees a lawsuit, now or later, whose basis is rooted in both employment law and civil rights. At eighteen, children may “Disaffirm” any contract not examined and approved by a Court and claim their just rewards.
A Minor Consideration believes that in cases of potential abuse the State must step in and actin loco parentis. If there are no Court Approved contracts for the Gosselin children we call upon the State of Pennsylvania under existing authority, to investigate the circumstances of the eight minors in “Jon & Kate” with an eye to ordinary film production’s Custom and Practice in their jurisdiction. Are there work permits, limited hours, due consideration for actual or potential harm, and protection of the minor’s income? Is federally mandated education in place? A Court-Appointed advocate must be appointed; an advocate independent of the parents and the production company with the power to actively intervene, if necessary.
In Hollywood, after decades of experience, children are accorded special status and have a Studio Teacher/Welfare worker present at all times. Working sets are required to have a credentialed first aid person to render immediate aid, if such is needed. Children own the money they earn and a portion of that income must be set-aside for the child’s use upon reaching the age of majority. More progressive jurisdictions even have employment provisions that guarantee psychological help if such help is required well after the “employment” itself has been completed because if history has taught us anything, it has taught us that there will be consequences.
If you’re wondering why we’re worried about these children, or if you think the money will be enough to protect them, come what may, you might want to visit the aforementioned quick Links you managed to skip over and absorb the implications of these two readily available websites:
There is, you see, nothing new under the sun…or under the spotlight’s glare.