The stiff contract protects NBC and the show’s producers from possible legal action. But it also creates the potential for faking the production and denies contestants of any say. Contestants can be forced to undergo medical and psychological testing — and have the results revealed on TV.
By Don Kaplan / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS 3/14/14
On ‘The Voice,’ contestants sign a contract that can be ‘dehumanizing.’ The megahit show can eliminate contestants at any time, even if they are ‘winning’ with the public.
You give them your voice — they’ll take everything else.
NBC’s megahit singing competition “The Voice” makes contestants sign a “dehumanizing” 32-page legal document that allows for plenty of potential for fakery during the production of the supposed reality show.
“The second clause of this document says to contestants, ‘F–k you,’” said a legal expert who was shown the contract by The News. “And if you missed it, the clauses that follow say, ‘F–k you.’”
The contract, obtained by The News, says the NBC show can:
• Change the rules at any time.
• Eliminate contestants at any time, even if they are “winning” with the public.
• Ignore the show’s voting system, which includes sales figures for contestants’ songs on iTunes, in the event of problems.
• Force contestants to undergo medical or psychological testing and, under certain circumstances, release the results on TV.
Fans were shocked when Judith Hill was axed from the competition last season. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone, given that producers admitted in another case that they had discarded thousands of votes cast via the Internet and social media.
Fans were shocked when Judith Hill was axed from the competition last season. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone, given that producers admitted in another case that they had discarded thousands of votes cast via the Internet and social media. And the contract signed by contestants makes it all legal.
These and other clauses offer a glimpse into what may have been behind the surprise elimination last season of fan favorite Judith Hill and a bizarre episode last May in which producers admitted they had discarded thousands of votes cast via the Internet and social media.
Contestants who reveal these and other details from the contract can be sued for $100,000 to $1 million. Still, parts of the contract were first leaked on Twitter last week by a user called @OfficialTVC, who claimed he did it because the document “is unfair and dehumanizing for the contestants.”
Such contracts are common in reality TV — indeed, similar legalese can be found in a contract for “American Idol” that was leaked online last year. But most viewers will be shocked to learn that producers of “The Voice” can disregard votes, although NBC and the show’s producers strongly deny any manipulation.
They can also disregard contestants. By signing the contract, singers agree to be depicted in a way that “may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing (and) may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation.”
They even agree to allow producers to “portray me in a false light.”
But beyond merely degrading contestants, the contract gives producers the legal right to not even be fair about it.
“Producer and the network … shall have the right at any and all times … to remove or replace me as a participant in the series, for any reason whatsoever, in their sole discretion,” would-be contestants consent by signing the contract.
That clause could explain the elimination of Hill, a former Michael Jackson backup singer. Given the contract, it’s anyone’s guess if Hill was cut because she had not drawn enough support from viewers or simply for dramatic impact.
The contract could also explain last May’s controversy when text and online votes were tossed from one week’s rankings because of “some inconsistencies” noticed by Telescope, the outside company that monitors the votes.
“For complete fairness, votes cast via text and online were not counted in the voting results,” host Carson Daly said, adding, “We value our relationship with our viewers.”
He then offered some “good news” that conspiracy theorists found hard to swallow: “Telescope certifies that removing those votes did not affect the outcome for any team,” Daly said.
A production source defended the contract and the show, claiming, “We have never manipulated the outcome on this show — NBC and ‘The Voice’ producers take the fairness and integrity of this competition far too seriously.”
A rep for NBC added, “The integrity of our competition shows, including ‘The Voice,’ is of the utmost importance to NBC. All audience votes on ‘The Voice’ are administered and certified by Telescope.”
It’s hardly surprising that producers would seek protection from voting or potential scandals. Similar voting scandals like the one from last May happened on “Idol” during seasons 2, 4, 5 and 9.
Another legal expert notes that the thick document is smartly written simply because it protects NBC and the producers from any possible legal action.
“These kinds of shows have been around for a while and … have been sued or threatened with lawsuits quite a bit,” the expert said. “Tough language is standard now in the industry.”