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Full frontal fact-checking

Discovery Communications recently introduced a 26-page 'Background Questionnaire' that is now mandatory for anyone hoping to appear on-screen on the net. And they're not alone - more and more networks are doing it. It's a sign of the times. Broadcasters feel the need to protect their brand at every turn, against all threats.
September 1, 2004

Discovery Communications recently introduced a 26-page ‘Background Questionnaire’ that is now mandatory for anyone hoping to appear on-screen on the net. And they’re not alone – more and more networks are doing it. It’s a sign of the times. Broadcasters feel the need to protect their brand at every turn, against all threats.

Although one producer described the form as ‘egregious,’ and another noted: ‘If it weren’t real and scary, it would be hilarious,’ we at RealScreen are serious about transparency, and feel that openness leads to a more trusting and fulfilling relationship. In that spirit, I felt I should tackle a few of the 106 questions and reference areas included in the questionnaire.

Question 11: Have you ever had a restraining order placed against you?

Yes. I have been asked not to return to Sea World after inappropriately touching a porpoise.

Question 20: Have you ever been expelled, suspended, or disciplined by any organization (including schools, government organizations, regulatory agencies)?

I used to cry during gym class as a tyke. I was asked not to return. True story.

Question 26: Have you ever seen a therapist, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, or been admitted or treated for any mental health disorder?

The voices in my head were getting really loud, and booze just wasn’t doing it anymore.

Question 40: How many times have you driven a car while under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs?

Well, that’s really two different questions.

Question 61: Have you ever been employed or ‘appeared’ in any pornographic movies, including ‘soft’ porn and Playboy©-style videos?

I was best boy on Debbie Does Docs, but it was the ’70s, baby. Loosen up.

Question 65: Have you ever been employed or ‘appeared’ as a dancer?…Check if you performed topless or totally nude.

If you’ve seen me dance, you’d prefer I wasn’t nude.

Question 96: Fill out the table below for any weapons (firearms, crossbows, etc.) that you own or have easy access to.

Six pens, five of which are red. (Look out!) A stapler. Some Breath Savers. My rapier wit.

Question 98: If you have you [sic] ever been a member of any organized association, movement, group, or combination of persons that advocated or advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government by any means other than the democratic procedures… explain below.

How did George W. Bush answer this one? That’s my answer too.

Question 103: Have you ever been stalked?

‘Been stalked,’ or ‘stalked’? Am I cool if I’m doing the stalking?

I’m sure there’s a good reason to know who my roommates were in college and what their phone numbers are (Question 44), but I’m certain some less forward-thinking, less security-conscious production types are going to have a problem with this form. And then there’s that off chance that some of these questions may be illegal in socialist havens like my dear old Canada.

There’s only one thing that’s really bothering me though: If I had been a porn star, wouldn’t that make me a better presenter?

Brendan Christie

Editor

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at mkashty@brunico.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty

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