Should Kids Star in Reality TV Shows?

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson," September 4, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JOHN GIBSON, "BIG STORY" HOST: It's the "Big Issue": Should kids star in reality TV shows? CBS's controversial "Kid Nation" premieres later this month. The show takes 40 children, ages eight to 15, and places them in a ghost town in New Mexico to see if they can live without adult supervision.

And now NBC is getting in on the underage action. Its upcoming show "Baby Borrowers" has teenage couples taking care of other people's babies. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy is here with more on that.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, "BIG STORY" CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, these shows have some asking how low will they go, both in age and in taste. Both shows are now causing controversy, putting the focus on how far is too far for reality TV.


KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): Reality TV started by putting grown adults to the test.

"SURVIVOR" HOST: Survivors ready? Go! Go!

KENNEDY: But critics say it crossed a line by setting up similar scenarios for children, like CBS's "Kid Nation." Now, some are more disgusted by a newly announced show they say exploits reality TV's final frontier: infants.

WENDY MURPHY, LEGAL ANALYST: Shows like this make us wonder what's next. I mean, literally exploiting children, putting them in harm's way for entertainment's sake.

KENNEDY: The show is called "Baby Borrowers" and it's based on a popular British series currently on the air. The premise is simple: Six teenage couples borrow babies and pretend to be parents to see if they actually want to have children. The show's producers say they're trying to discourage teen pregnancy by showing the pains of parenting.

Wendy Murphy is a former federal prosecutor and she says they're actually encouraging baby abuse.

MURPHY: This show will not sell tickets unless bad things happen. People will be counting on bad things to happen. So we're going to see harm done to children.

KENNEDY: NBC defends the series claiming the babies were only in teen care for three days. And they say the show went to great lengths to make sure the infants were not abused: "The producers truly complied with all state laws. We encouraged all parents to be on set at all times."

But Murphy's not buying it.

MURPHY: Maybe they got lucky this time. The question is not was anybody hurt, but does this in fact expose children to a risk of harm and is it good to exploit children in this way for profit?


KENNEDY: Murphy's answer is obviously no. She points out "Baby Borrowers" was shot this summer in Idaho, a state known for lax child labor laws. She says "Kid Nation" also avoided legal scrutiny by shooting in New Mexico. Both states, John, say they are now trying to reform those laws.

GIBSON: Well, in the case of these babies, I know that producers said they encouraged parents to be there. Were they there watching their own babies?

KENNEDY: That's the way they phrase it. They say we allowed them to be there at any time they want at all time. But, you know, obviously some of...

GIBSON: How much money did the parents get?

KENNEDY: They say no money.


KENNEDY: Which is — yeah.


KENNEDY: But there's obviously ways around that.

GIBSON: Douglas Kennedy, thank you very much.

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