Arguably the most anticipated reality television show in Nigeria, Big Brother Naija (BBN) Season 5 is set to premier this Sunday, 19th July 2020. This season of BBN marks a major milestone in the reality TV series and in keeping with Big Brother tradition, it is expected to thrill the audience with the chorus of interesting characters poised to undergo and endure the rigours of the “House” in the hopes of winning the whopping grand prize of $219,000.00 and fame.
Reality TV is a juggernaut of rights acquisition, which is entirely dependent on the agreement by the talent to continuously give rights to new events in their lives. Typically, rights are obtained for events that have already transpired; life rights are given for a person’s life until the moment of the grant, and book rights are usually for a book that has already been written. Another important issue for its creators and producers is the degree to which intellectual property protection is available to stop competitors from appropriating the content of reality programming. However, due to the cost of production, the millions of naira in revenue on the line and most of all, the recalcitrance of humans, reality TV show producers must obtain all necessary rights to the footage of the contestants as of yet, unknown future actions, as well as ensure that the contestants waive a great number of their rights in order for producers to present the entertainment clamoured for and ensure that the network and producers are protected.
Accordingly, in a television show like BBN, contestants will be required to sign a detailed agreement where the specific concept of the show is described. This agreement is typically long due to the eccentricity of the show’s format, and to prevent any ambivalence in the minds of contestants (or their future attorneys), precise waivers and grant of rights are drafted in such a way to simultaneously state what is going on as well as permit the producers wide berth with which to determine what they can and cannot do with the footage obtained.
Common clauses in a contestant’s contract would include:
(a) Agreeing to be recorded 24 hours a day, seven days a week “clothed, partially clothed or naked”;
(b) Submitting to the producer’s control of all the utilities in the house, including water;
(c) Accepting that there is a likelihood that “personal, private intimate, defamatory, disparaging, or embarrassing” information about the contestant may be revealed;
(d) Additionally, the contestants must waive their moral rights, meaning that they permit the show to depict them in such a way that may appear “disparaging, defamatory or otherwise unfavorable” and may expose that contestant to “public ridicule, humiliation and condemnation”;
(e) Release of liability: Waiving their rights to sue the producers or the network for anything that occurred as a result of the contestant’s participation in the show;
(f) Granting to the producer the rights to hold authorship and copyright to every photograph, sound or video recording created in relation to the program;
(g) Story rights: Granting permanent ownership rights to the producer to do anything they want to the contestant, his/her story, image and footage of them.
Producers will also add supplementary clauses which are geared towards benefiting them even as the risks in reality TV continue to increase. That is why it is said that history is written by those in power. By signing away such rights, contestants are permitting their history to be written by producers, unaware of the events that may lead to that future or how that future will be manipulated into appearing in the cutting room.
As a contestant, can you negotiate these terms to make them more favourable to you? Perhaps. As with most things in life, it all depends on your negotiating power such that will better protect your future rights without jeopardizing your current opportunity. Accordingly, in order to negotiate successfully, the contestant would usually need to come with a guaranteed source of ratings for the show and an ability to bring audiences to their TV screens. However, for most who sign on to be on the show, they are at the start of their careers and accordingly are unlikely to have the requisite “pull” to take on the powerhouse that is BBN. Furthermore, even if a contestant had the backing to negotiate, due to the type of content the producers are looking for, if a potential contestant seeks to affect their ability to obtain such content, producers will likely quickly move on to the next willing contestant.
Nevertheless, being a part on a Reality TV show may be an incredible lifetime opportunity, so all is fair in the game of fame and fortune provided that you understand and knowingly agree to what you sign on for and go in with your eyes wide open. We wish all the contestants good luck and we look forward to watching!
The contents of this news alert are meant for the general information of our clients and friends and do not amount to legal advice. All enquiries on the subject may be made to Uzoamaka Emerole at email@example.com or Xerona Duke Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org .