Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 09:09 UK

US writers target American Idol

David Cook wins American Idol
David Cook is American Idol's most recent winner

Hollywood writers have launched a protest against American Idol, claiming the TV talent show underpays workers.

The Writers Guild of America has chartered a "Truth Tour" bus to shadow the audition tour of the hit TV show, which began in San Francisco this week.

The protest is part of a long-simmering feud between the union and producers of many reality TV shows.

The WGA has sought to represent reality show workers since 2005, arguing the work they do is a form of writing.

Many reality TV shows are not covered by WGA contracts, unlike scripted dramas and comedies.

But the union alleges that employees, such as production assistants and editors, write scenarios and outlines.

'Random footage'

"All these shows, they're well-structured," said David Weiss, vice-president of WGA West.

"You can't sit through an hour of television that is the result of random footage being strung together."

The bus, carrying about 50 protesters, travelled from Los Angeles to San Francisco, on Wednesday, where the first audition for the next series of American Idol was being held.

Justin Buckles, 29, a former production assistant on the show, said he brought scripts to host Ryan Seacrest as part of a work day which often lasted 15 to 20 hours.

"You need to stand up for yourself, and that's what I'm doing at this point," he said.

Representatives from FremantleMedia, one of the companies that produces American Idol, and Fox, which airs the program, were not immediately available to comment.

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