Between Yellow and Gray – So maybe the lawyer is the Big-Brother !

Between Yellow and Gray – So maybe the lawyer is the Big-Brother !

Adi Marcus, Adv.
January 8, 2022

On January 05, 2022, the Israeli parliament passed by a preliminary hearing a law that prohibits television auditions for teen under the age of 17 without the presence of a legal guardian. The proposal, which may sound peculiar to those unfamiliar with the complicated legal issues of producing TV shows, raises for public discussion one of a variety of legal issues involved in the producing of a TV show to which most of us do not give much thought. As a matter of fact, most of us watch TV and do not stop to think about what it takes to produce a show like "The Big Brother", "The Masked Singer" or "The Amazing Race " or how much work is required behind the scenes for the lawyers of an investigative journalism program ?

In reality, producing a TV show is a complicated and lengthy process. From the moment the idea is conceived in the mind of the screenwriter or the producer, to the moment the viewers watch it on screen many years may well pass, during which a significant number of people will be involved in the production. The screenwriter, the director, the photographer, the actor, the producer and also - the lawyer. While many attorneys may know how to handle engagement agreements with various participants or funding entities related to the production of a TV show (which is also becoming more and more complicated due to the multiplicity of channels and evolving production models in the market), a lawyer's work in the production of a TV show rarely amounts to just engagement agreements and every production requires legal assistance, not only in the contractual aspect but also in relation to the content itself.

In fact, the lawyer who accompanies a production is always somewhat stuck in the interesting middle point between the creative team's desire to create interesting content, which will bring the viewers something new and exciting, and will translate into commercial success (especially in today's saturated TV market) and the desire to work within the boundaries of the strict and dull law to protect the production from future lawsuits or complaints. Not every idea that comes to the mind of a creative content person may be brought to the screen as is, and sometimes it takes delicate work to find a legal and proper way to express the idea in a manner that will still be edgy and entertaining but without endangering the production, and everyone involved in it, including personally, with huge lawsuits.

For example, a certain talent reality show may want to allow minors to audition for the show in order to bring new and fresh talents to the television screen, but it is the lawyer who has to ensure the adherence to the employment laws for minors. A scripted program may want to bring to the screen a story that shows a character degenerating into a life of crime and drug abuse, but if the program is intended to air at certain hours there may be restrictions on what may be shown on the screen.

Do the actors in the show talk on a cell phone? This may be considered a forbidden covert paid advertisement for the cellular brand; If a game show contestants are required to complete a task that requires them to sing a popular song? Copyrights to the song must be verified; Does the show portray people driving without a seat belt? These parts may need to be removed as this is not permitted by law; An investigative journalism program published a biting investigation of a public figure who acted dishonorably? It must remember to enable him to respond and the defenses against defamation.

Thus, every frame in a TV show (and sometimes even the show itself, as a format) is fertile ground for potential lawsuits, and as long as the production has not been wise enough to involve a lawyer with many years of experience in the field, commencing at the early production stages, it may find itself later, when the show already exists and sometimes even finished filming, to make painful cuts and leave significant parts on the editing room floor, as they do not meet legal requirements and airing them may result in various lawsuits and regulatory fines.