The ‘Science’ Behind Reality TV Background Checks

reality tv background checksWhat’s the deal with reality tv background checks?

One thing any NFL agent, player, reporter or even casual observer can tell you about the league’s draft is it is defined by extensive background vetting. Reality television producers employ a similar strategy to ensure their cast members make for good programming without crossing the line – so what’s the deal with reality tv background checks? How do they do it?

The New York Times pointed out 12 years ago, when reality TV was a seedling relative to what it is now, that casting was becoming a science. With overĀ a decade having passed since then, background vetting in the industry has seen its ups and downs. If one network has had an issue with this practice in recent years, it’s TLC. Two of the network’s programs, “19 Kids and Counting” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” suffered following the disclosure of scandals involving cast members.

Background checks are hit or miss

The Washington Post noted that the network typically conducts extensive background checks, though obviously there is room for failure. The problem for industry professionals is that there are plenty of interesting people who have been involved in activities that could prove detrimental from a public relations standpoint. Their inquiries into the past have to be extensive, and that’s something that anyone hoping to star in one of these programs should be aware of.

“Friends and family may be subject to background checks.”

Methods for vetting cast members’ pasts were examined following the “19 Kids and Counting” scandal involving Josh Duggar. However, as The Times’ 2004 article indicates, networks have been doing this for some time. There are some specific things they know to look into at this point. For example, networks will likely subject potential show participants to drug tests. In addition, they will review new cast members’ criminal histories.

Networks also wonder about loved ones

Something else that’s important for program participants to keep in mind, is that they may have to warn friends and family they may be subject to background checks as well. Larry Musnik, the executive producer for MTV’s “Teen Mom,” told Cosmopolitan that his team runs background checks on the participants’ new boyfriends.

“We are very careful to do background checks and know what’s going on in a person’s history and not be surprised to the best of our ability,” he told the publication. “We are checking and asking and doing that due diligence all the time. We want to be sure that these people are with them because of the relationship, not because of the TV camera.”

Reality tv background checks are a bit rigorous. If participants are worried about the extent of these checks, it is important for them to review their contracts. These agreements may contain more information on how much leeway the network is given to vet cast members, as well as their family and friends.

Anyone interested in joining a reality TV program should contact an experienced entertainment law attorney who can guide them through the complicated and seemingly intrusive process.

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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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