The Wrap today reports that a 20/20 investigation into NBC reality hit The Biggest Loser was quashed after producers made it clear to past contestants that unapproved cooperation with the newsmagazine could subject them to legal action.
The news follows a New York Times article that investigated whether unhealthy weight-loss techniques are used on the show, although TW says 20/20 made the decision to put its report on hold in mid-November, which was at least a week before the NYT published its story.
Producers at 20/20 had tentatively lined up at least three contestants they believed were willing to discuss their experience on camera, a person familiar with the investigation told TW.
Loser producers are said to have contacted past contestants to remind them of the confidentiality clauses in their contract and the requirement that they go through proper publicity channels before talking to reporters.
The Nov. 25 NYT story said the paper had obtained a copy of an email sent to contestants which indicated they could be fined from $100,000 to $1 million if they broke the rules of their contracts.
An ABC spokeswoman confirmed to TW that the newsmagazine had been looking into Loser and that the show currently has no plans to air an investigation. However, she declined to discuss details of the investigation or the reasons why no report on Loser is scheduled.
TW contends that nondisclosure agreements are standard for most reality series and even some scripted shows and notes “it’s understandable producers would want to control interviews with talent since they’re trying to protect a multimillion-dollar brand…In the case of reality shows, there’s also the issue of disgruntled ex-contestants: More than a few of their complaints have turned out to be without merit, possibly attempts by publicity hungry ex-players looking to extend their moment in the spotlight.”