The Bargaining Power Imbalance

A common theme throughout today’s presentation was bargaining power, specifically the power struggle between the producer or network and the talent.  Ironically (I believe), the agreement discussed is referred to as the “Talent” agreement.  In reality, this agreement should be called the Producer’s Agreement; the talent rarely has any power in the bargaining process it seems (unless he or she already had a successful first season).  The producer alone controls what ideas will or will not get a chance, whether those ideas have a potential for profit or not.  If the so called “talent” does not bend to the will of the producer, that producer can just show him or her the door. 

This imbalance in the bargaining process really bothers me.  If the “talent” does not have much (or any) bargaining power, the producer can take advantage of this in numerous ways because the “talent” is driven mostly by a desire to get televised.  This desire can  blind the “talent” to what he or she is actually signing away to the producer.  In essence, the producer is asking “talent” to sign away his or her life and the specifics of it.  With this imbalance in power, the producer can broadly define the idea posed, leaving the “talent” with little rights outside of that broad coverage.  As stated in the presentation, the producer can even reject a person’s idea, and then later, because of some submission agreement, use that idea to produce another show, totally ignoring the efforts of the original thought because the producer was able to broadly define it, making it unprotectable. 

Reality TV has now become a lucrative business; it is time for the “talent” of the world to take control of the business that, without them, would fade away.  Just as the writers of Hollywood realized, it is not the networks and producers of the world that make a business successful; it is the ideas and content behind that business that create its overwhelming success. 

-Justin Heisler


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