Reality TV’s Low-Wage and No-Wage Work


  • Tanner Mirlees


In keeping with this issue of Alternate Routes’ focus on forms
of low-waged and no-waged work, this article focuses on low-waged and
non-waged work in the reality TV production sector. How do reality-TV
studios try to maximize profits by keeping the costs of making their
commodities to a minimum, and how does the push for profit disorganize
and devalue labour? This article contextualizes and critiques how reality TV
studios try to maximize profits by minimizing production costs in three
sections. “Reality TV Producers: Work Behind the Scenes” shows how
reality TV’s classification as “non-scripted” programming enables
production companies to exploit a non-unionized workforce. “Reality TV
Celebrities: Work in the Scenes” highlights how reality TV production
companies exploit the no-waged labour of “contestant-participants.”
“Reality TV Interns: Work Behind the Scenes, and In Them” shows how
studios use internship programs to get workers to make reality TV
programs without pay and how some of these programs glorify no-waged
work. The article concludes on a more optimistic note with an overview of
reality-TV worker challenges to reality-TV’s owners with unionization,
strikes, litigation, publicity and discourse.


How to Cite

Mirlees, T. (2016). Reality TV’s Low-Wage and No-Wage Work. Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research, 27. Retrieved from