Friday, July 20, 2007

Kid Nation prompts complaints and controversy

A reality TV show which was filmed in Santa Fe County is generating complaints and controversy. The advertising for the show says:

40 children, 40 days, no adults—eager to prove they can build a better world for tomorrow in the new reality series KID NATION. Settling in Bonanza City, New Mexico, once a thriving mining town but now deserted, these kids, ages 8 to 15 and from all walks of life, will build their own new world, pioneer-style. They will confront grown-up issues while coping with the classic childhood emotions of homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule. Episodes end with a town meeting in which the kids award one child a gold star worth $20,000, all leading to the grand finale, with an unimaginable test, the biggest awards and a special surprise for every child.

The trailer for the show available at CBS website is chock full of made up information. CBS claims the show was filmed at a long ago abandoned mining town called Bonanza City. CBS also claims in its trailer that adults abandoned the town because they could not make a life there yet the children will somehow make a go of it.

The truth is the filming was done at Bonanza Creek Ranch at a movie set built in 1989 for the filming of the "Lucky Luke " TV series. According to producers of the show the kids were not really alone. they were surrounded by councilors, medics, camera people, nutritionists. and psychologists.

Although during filming I had no complaints forwarded to our office, after the filming was completed a mother wrote a letter which was sent to my office, various state agencies and others. She complained that the children were mistreated and that child labor laws were broken. She stated in her complaint that she was not properly informed of her child's condition nor the conditions her child was in while filming at the set. The mother also was upset at a confidentiality agreement she signed which she felt forced her and other parents to not speak out about conditions at the set.

While the allegations in her letter were troubling, investigation by our agency showed that the allegations did not rise to a criminal level. I am sure that the other state agencies who looked at this probably came to the same conclusion. I do feel that the show went to far and that parents who allowed their children to go to this filming and not be present and oversee their children's participation were not making a good choice. I for one would not have allowed my children to participate without my being on site or at least visiting often to assess what my child was doing. According to the parent who complained she had little or no contact with her child most of the time and felt her child received inadequate medical care for injury's and rashes her child obtained while filming.

It will be a lot harder to film another Kid Nation because many states will probably monitor these productions much closer now that complaints were lodged with this production. New Mexico enacted new laws after the production which limits the number of hours children can work on a production - a maximum of 18 hours during a school week, and no shooting after 7pm. New laws also require that studio teachers and a parent or guardian are on the set and that the children are fed proper meals.

These new laws would have greatly altered the way this series was filmed and probably would have resulted in filming not happening in New Mexico. While the complaints about the show have garnered some attention in the media over all the story has not had legs. I think it just has not been picked up by the major news media yet. The disappointing thing is that the producers of the show were probably counting on some controversy which would then be used to garner ratings. Should the show decide to try and film in Santa Fe County again the Sheriff's office will be on site and closely monitor the show, although my preference is that the producers go else where.


jackpayne said...

I spent 10 years of my life in your locale, and agree that it's odd that a film company would pick this part of the country for this show. I agree: they should go elsewhere.

--Jack Payne

Natalie said...

I'm thinkin' it's just more hype to try to get people to watch the show.
Reality shows get on my nerves but when you throw a bunch of kids into the mix, well, that's just dumb. Who... in their right mind.... would leave their kids out there, supposedly alone, blah, blah...
It's a crock. Not only should they go somewhere else; they need to just get off the airwaves!