Happy Recession, Reality TV Style

In case you needed more proof that FOX is a den of evil:

Fox has ordered a “one-hour unscripted series that turns real-life company layoffs into a reality contest.” The show — titled “Someone’s Gotta Go” — will give company staffers access to internal information (budgets, HR files, and salaries) and the power to determine which of the company’s staffers is fired. The Hollywood Reporter notes, “It’s the anti-‘Apprentice’: Instead of contestants vying for a dream job, they’re fighting to keep the lousy one they already have.”

Oh, I don’t see any problem with that, no. No problem with releasing private HR files for mass public consumption, no problem with giving corporations an excuse to lay off people from real jobs by enacting a “life boat” scenario, no problem there.

Nope. Nothing wrong here. Pass the popcorn.

(h/t)

23 comments for “Happy Recession, Reality TV Style

  1. Dan in Denver
    April 8, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    On the other hand, someone who does get laid off will be able to get their resume/CV out there in front of a much bigger group of people, and hopefully find a new job. (On the other other hand, if they’re the biggest zero in their group, they might be getting their complete incompetence shown in front of the world, which would tend to have the opposite effect.)

  2. Ms. Annie Creamcheese
    April 8, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    oh gawd, how sadistic does this country have to get before someone drops a bomb on us? Seriously, and we wonder why other countries hate us…

  3. AnonymousCoward
    April 8, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    What if the people say, “Why don’t we all take a small salary cut to keep all of us employed?” . . . oh right, this is a FOX Reality show. That won’t happen.

    Also, I’m glad someone else noticed the glaring problem that they’re going to be revealing HR paperwork to other employees, which is more than a little problematic.

  4. April 8, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    UGH, that sounds like such a horrible, sad idea! I know I’m a fan of bad reality TV, but this takes it too far! Whoever came up with this (and the people who supported this) should get THEIR butts fired!!

  5. April 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    This is why I feel it is necessary to remember that the relationship we have with our employers is not a friendship, it is business. Right now the media is encouraging workers to bend over backwards and make all kinds of concessions. If that sounds familiar it is because it is a practice regularly engaged in by business unionism. We always need to remember to act in our own best interest, because you can be certain your boss will every time. All shows like this do is breed a culture of corporate fear which cedes all control and power to the employer rather than the employee. What would have happened had these people en masse decided not to participate in this humiliating little ceremony? Could the employer have afforded to fire them all at once – I think not.

  6. April 9, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Oh holy no! I admit Project Runway is about all the Reality TV I watch regularly, but this just sours my stomach. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through more than a year of layoffs and watched months and months of my co-workers, staff, mentors, etc. wondering if they were next or who was next and wondering why person X was chosen over person Y. This just comes across as sadistic. Painfully so.

  7. April 9, 2009 at 1:05 am

    If the management of a small, already-failing company is stupid enough to get involved in this televised Charlie Foxtrot, what are the odds that the company will last another year even with staff reductions? Don’t think of it as being fired; think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush.

  8. April 9, 2009 at 6:20 am

    I wonder if they get access to the files of and the opportunity to fire the CEO and top execs as well. That would at least make the unethical nature of it fairer. And the top exces are obviously doing a lousy job because 1. their company is in such bad shape that they need to lay someone off and 2. they agreed to this ridiculous plan.

  9. The Opoponax
    April 9, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Re confidentiality, HR paperwork, etc – in order for this show to happen at all, FOX has to have the consent of the participants. Which would include them voluntarily giving FOX access to personal materials that would normally be private.

    Of course, the larger issue here is the concept, which is the most sadistic shit I can imagine. But the operational stuff like getting access to confidential information is par for the course with reality TV.

    I think the saddest thing of all is that there are probably people lining up to have their depressing workplace angst documented for the whole country to see.

  10. Roy
    April 9, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Re confidentiality, HR paperwork, etc – in order for this show to happen at all, FOX has to have the consent of the participants. Which would include them voluntarily giving FOX access to personal materials that would normally be private.

    Doesn’t it sort of depend on the nature of the paperwork? When was the last time that you gave permission for someone to look at your HR files? I mean, I don’t know about anyone else, but never in my life has anyone at my job ever requested my permission to look at my files. In fact, I was explicitly told at one job that I was not allowed to see my own personnel file.

    Obviously, any of the participants on the show must have signed some kind of release in order to appear on television, but as far as their HR files and such are concerned, I’m not so sure about that.

    Even if they did, I think that there are some power dynamics at play that make it more than a little complicated. “Hey Roy, we’re in the process of making cutbacks, and we’re going to have to lay some people off. We’re thinking of doing this reality show, though. You might want to consider signing this release.”

    I mean, is there any question what the expected result is if you say “No, I’m not signing that release.”?

    I already dislike most “reality” shows for the ways that they glorify and encoursage taking pleasure in other people’s misfortune, misery, and humiliation, but this show just takes it to a whole new level.

  11. Whit
    April 9, 2009 at 9:09 am

    What exactly is the problem with public disclosure of income? Someone please explain it to me, if you will, keeping in mind I’m allergic to capitalist screed.

  12. April 9, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Whit:
    You do know that there is more stuff in an HR file than just your salary, right? Like, any time you’ve been disciplined or had a conflict with a superior, your annual reviews, sick leave records, vacation records, etc., etc. There is no WAY I would have ever wanted that stuff made *PUBLIC*, like ON TV, because it’s the corporation that gets to decide what goes in there, whether it’s a fair reading or not. Granted, some places are more fair than others. But that is not the kind of stuff that I would want plastered all over national TV, especially given the bias in some places that if you actually *take* the vacation and/or sick leave that is part of your benefits package, you are considered to be “not serious about (your) job”. (No shit — my brother in law got to deal with that one.)

    This is a giant train wreck, and I can’t believe people agreed to it. :P

  13. preying mantis
    April 9, 2009 at 10:17 am

    “I mean, I don’t know about anyone else, but never in my life has anyone at my job ever requested my permission to look at my files.”

    Probably because it’d be considered extremely gauche, and most companies do not have policies in place where HR is required to entertain such requests from the rank and file. You can see your file, supervisors can see your file, and HR can see your file. You can also (almost always) get a copy of your file, and then do with that as you see fit. In this case, assuming the company keeps any documentation of sick leave, doctor’s notes, prescription medications, medical alerts, etc., you’d absolutely need the participants to have consented to the records being released. To do otherwise would probably violate HIPAA provisions in about ten different ways.

  14. The Opoponax
    April 9, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Obviously, any of the participants on the show must have signed some kind of release in order to appear on television, but as far as their HR files and such are concerned, I’m not so sure about that.

    I work for a TV show (and have otherwise been involved with other TV projects unrelated to my current job). Believe me when I assure you that there are consent forms out the ass, for EVERYFUCKINGTHING under the goddamn sun. I’ve had to fill out a stack of paperwork as as thick as a small town phonebook in order to give my current job permission to use a photograph I took.

    The one time I participated in a TV project in a “talent” capacity, they fedexed over an entire box of consent forms for different aspects of the project. I think there might have been more paperwork to fill out when I arrived to participate, too.

    I was once stopped for a “man on the street” soundbite for a reality show. I had to fill out a shocking amount of paperwork for the privilege.

    Even if they did, I think that there are some power dynamics at play that make it more than a little complicated. “Hey Roy, we’re in the process of making cutbacks, and we’re going to have to lay some people off. We’re thinking of doing this reality show, though. You might want to consider signing this release.”

    I mean, is there any question what the expected result is if you say “No, I’m not signing that release.”?

    I can’t speak for FOX, but in working in TV my experience has generally been that networks and production companies don’t want the hassle of lawsuits. Which makes it rather unlikely that they would encourage companies to pressure their employees into participating. Because if it comes out later that there was a suggestion of prid pro quo to coerce employees into signing over the right to confidential material, that would get real complicated real quick. Again, this isn’t to say it couldn’t possibly happen, but it’s probably not the official M.O. of the show’s production.

    Just to reiterate, totally against the show, think it’s shamefully sadistic and probably the most vile idea I’ve ever heard. But I’m not sure that parlays into sketchy consent procedures or coerced participation. As I said, the saddest thing about that is that there are probably people lined up around the block wanting to participate in something like this.

  15. sally
    April 9, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Yeah, this is insane. The employees are not trained in legal compliance issues. What if they decide to “vote someone off” because they think they take too many sick days or because they’re pregnant and aren’t “contributing”? Hello, Title VII, FMLA and ADA violations… I would really like to see a company defend itself in court on this one. “Well, you see your honor, we let our employees decide who to lay off as part of a reality TV show, and they decided only on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons…

  16. The Opoponax
    April 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    What if they decide to “vote someone off” because they think they take too many sick days or because they’re pregnant and aren’t “contributing”?

    The show probably has to employ a legal consultant who vets the “reasons” for being fired.

    That said, having seen Vote You Off The Island format reality shows (the one I see most often lately is FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen), one thing that happens a lot is that in the “private” Who Shall We Fire sessions people will air their personal grievances which may or may not conform to legal reasons to fire someone. And because these sessions are documented on camera, if someone genuinely feels that they were let go for legally questionable reasons, this footage would give them obvious ammo. And I can’t imagine that a network can really have someone sign away their rights to sue in that situation. Or really, I can’t imagine that any attorney worth their salt would advise someone to sign away that right (and really fucking hope that people participating as subjects got some legal advice before just signing their lives away).

    Of course, there’s also a part of me that thinks this show must be heavily staged, or at least scripted, to avoid liability issues, and that the layoffs might not even be binding. I just don’t see how this reality show format could be applied to a real life company as claimed without everything being a huge mess from a production standpoint.

  17. sally
    April 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    And I can’t imagine that a network can really have someone sign away their rights to sue in that situation.

    It is not even possible to waive those rights in advance — the law forbids that . They might try to get them to sign a release after they get vote off, but that wouldn’t give them any protection in advance. I also don’t think any legal vetting of the employees’ decision will really provide much protection. Employers’ main defense to discrimination suits is that they had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for firing someone, and the main way they do this is by demonstrating that they followed a well-thought out HR and disciplinary policy. Obviously using this lord-of-the-flies approach does not fit the bill of sound HR policy!

  18. Bitter Scribe
    April 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    How and why did watching people get humiliated become a major form of entertainment?

  19. April 9, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Um… the question is who in a recession would want to watch this? Most people I know who are either losing or potentially losing their jobs, want to escape from that pressure instead of go home and watch it play out… and be asked through the medium of television to identify with the people who decide to let them go.

    This is really screwed up and I wouldn’t be surprised if it tanked in the ratings.

  20. April 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    How and why did watching people get humiliated become a major form of entertainment?

    Isn’t that what most reality shows are? People don’t watch reality TV (if you can call it that) for enlightenment. They watch it because other people are in a situation that the viewer doesn’t want to be in.

    Do I think this is a bad move by FOX, yup! But as long as employers do not try and force their employees to participate, I don’t think it should be a problem. Then it would just be contenting adults choosing to participate in the show.

    Would I agree to be on the show? Hell No! But I can’t make that decision for other people.

    @Whit:

    You wrote:

    What exactly is the problem with public disclosure of income? Someone please explain it to me, if you will, keeping in mind I’m allergic to capitalist screed.

    What I make for a salary is nobodies business but my own. That’s why they call it “Personal Income”. Economic ideologies aside, I don’t want to hand out personal information to any random person (or corporation). I don’t even like giving information to the government, never mind a media outlet like FOX.

  21. September 22, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I’m a blogging intern for http://www.familytvaddicts.com with a focus on Reality TV. When I found this post my first reaction was “Is this legal?” I can’t believe what some TV execs think we’ll be interested watching. I would hate to watch someone lose their job & livelihood. I’ll definately be referring to your post on my Link Love Friday. Thanks.

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