Why? Let the little geniuses stand [or fall] on their own knowledge. Doesn't this verge on child exploitation...entertainment for adults?
"F.C.C. Opens an Inquiry for a Game Show on Fox"
February 20th, 2010
The New York Times
February 20th, 2010
The New York Times
The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether the producers of the planned Fox game show “Our Little Genius” gave potential contestants the answers to some questions before taping episodes of the program last year.
In December, the parent of a child who was recruited for the quiz show sent a letter to the commission. The letter alleges that a few days before a planned taping, a member of the program’s production staff reviewed with the contestant and his parents a list of potential topics and gave specific answers to at least four questions that the child either did not know or about which he was unsure.
The letter, dated Dec. 17 and received by the F.C.C. on Dec. 22, was released Friday by the commission in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The New York Times.
“Our Little Genius” was withdrawn from the Fox schedule on Jan. 7, six days before its premiere. Already heavily promoted by Fox, the program was to feature children 6 to 12 years old answering multipart, open-ended questions about specialized subject matter for the chance to win what the producers called “life-changing money.”
At the time of the withdrawal, Mark Burnett, the program’s creator and executive producer, said in a statement that questions had arisen about “how some information was relayed to contestants during the preproduction.” The network said it supported Mr. Burnett’s decision and agreed “there can be no question about the integrity of our shows.”
But people close to the production, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said at the time that contestants had not been given answers. That assertion is contradicted by the letter to the F.C.C.
For example, the letter states that when the child said that he didn’t know the British system of naming musical notes, he was told by the production staff member the names of four specific notes that “he needed to know,” including semibreve for whole note, crotchet for quarter note and quaver for eighth note. “He told us that it was very important to know that the hemidemisemiquaver is the British name for the sixty-fourth note,” the letter says.
For privacy reasons, the F.C.C. redacted the names of the author of the letter and the child contestant. The letter states that the child went to the studio for a taping on Dec. 8, but after a meeting with an attorney for Mark Burnett Productions, at which one of the child’s parents raised issues about some of the planned questions and the contest’s rules, the child’s appearance on the show was canceled.
Section 508 of the Communications Act of 1934 makes it illegal for anyone to give, with the intent to deceive the viewing or listening public, assistance that will affect the outcome of a “purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill.” That issue was behind the quiz show scandals of the 1950s.
Whether that occurred with the Fox game show, which has not been broadcast, is the subject of the F.C.C.’s inquiry, according to a person involved in the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly about it. As a matter of practice, the F.C.C. will neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
A spokeswoman for Fox Broadcasting said the network would not comment beyond its January statement.
An assistant to Mr. Burnett said on Friday that he was traveling overseas and unavailable for comment. Other officials at Mark Burnett Productions did not respond to a phone call and an e-mail message asking about the allegations in the letter.
The letter also alleges that a day before the contestant’s scheduled taping, the producers issued a rule change giving a player a second chance, or “reload,” if he failed to successfully answer any of the first four of 10 rounds of questions.
Attached to the letter is a document titled “Addendum to the Series Rules,” which states that “in the event the Little Genius answers question 1, 2, 3, or 4 incorrectly, the contestants will be entitled to the one (1) time opportunity, but not the obligation, to restart game play with a new question set.”
The troubles are a rare setback for Mr. Burnett, who is one of the most prolific producers of reality programming. He has created programs for all four major networks, including “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”
In an interview last fall, he spoke confidently of his close involvement with every show. But in recent years he has been spreading himself more thinly, taking on numerous cable series and producing television events, including the MTV Movie Awards and the People’s Choice Awards.