How did anyone think this would be a good idea?
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 21 — The producers of a CBS reality show featuring 40 children living on their own in the New Mexico desert were warned by the state attorney general’s office while the show was being taped last spring that they might be violating the state’s child-labor laws, according to interviews with state officials and documents obtained Tuesday under the state’s open records act.
The show, “Kid Nation,” which is scheduled to premiere on CBS on Sept. 19, is a reality show whose premise is to take 40 children, ages 8 to 15, and place them in a “ghost town” in New Mexico to see if they can build a working society without the help of adults.
But after the production ended in mid-May, the parent of one child in the production complained to state officials that the children’s treatment bordered on abuse. Four children received medical treatment for accidentally drinking bleach, one child was burned on her face with hot grease while cooking in an unsupervised kitchen, and most of the children were required to work 14 hours or longer per day. They received a payment of $5,000 for their participation.
In interviews last week, CBS contended the children were not employees because they were not performing specific work for specific wages. A lawyer for CBS, Jonathan Anschell, said the network had received no indication that it was violating the law.