Is an Expired Rule to Blame for Diversity Issues in Entertainment?

diversity issues in entertainmentExpired rule to blame for diversity issues in entertainment?

The expiration of a rule governing independent talent agents in 2002 could be behind what many people characterize as a diversity problem in Hollywood.

The unveiling of this year’s Oscar nominees brought a longstanding conversation back to the forefront of the mainstream media: Why is Hollywood so white? Diversity has long been cited as an issue for the movie and television industries.

Lenhoff Enterprises, Inc. v. United Talent Agency, Inc. et al

Now, a lawsuit over employee poaching may provide an answer to those individuals who question Hollywood’s lack of diversity. Lenhoff Enterprises, Inc. v. United Talent Agency, Inc. et al, began as a lawsuit accusing the defendant of poaching talent. However, the litigation touched on an agreement between the Screen Actors Guild and the Association of Talent Agents that expired in 2002 as the reason for a lack of diversity in television. Rule 16(g) mandated that agents be independent and required them to abstain from holding any financial interest in production or distribution companies.

The plaintiff claims that following the rule’s expiration actors, directors and writers have found it difficult to find good representation. Often agents will provide production and distribution companies with a package of talent, rather than individuals, and make money from fees rather than commissions. This concept of packaging talent for these companies to use, rather than shopping individual clients, has contributed to the diversity issue, according to Lenhoff’s lawsuit. Minorities, he claimed, are not the marquee elements of these talent packages, and thus find themselves on the outside looking in far too often.

While talent agencies can counter Lenhoff’s arguments using shows such as “Empire” as examples, a problem with diversity has become apparent. Whether his claim that “talent packaging” is to blame is less clear.

If you believe you’ve suffered as a result of a lack of diversity in Hollywood, or the tendency of talent agencies to package talent together, speak to an experienced entertainment law attorney for advice.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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