After weeks of stories that there’s a toxic culture at Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show, WarnerMedia is launching an investigation, according to reports, although WarnerMedia spokesmen would neither comment nor confirm.
According to a story first posted by Variety, Warner Bros. and Telepictures -- Warner Bros.’ first-run subsidiary that produces Ellen -- a memo went out to staff last week informing them that WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third-party firm would be conducting interviews with current and former employees about their workplace experience.
Variety first posted a story in April reporting that “crew members … are distressed and outraged over their treatment from top producers amid the coronavirus pandemic.” This included crew members being upset that outside firms were being brought in to set up DeGeneres' home for remote production.
That was followed up in July by a story in BuzzFeed, in which one current and 10 former employees -- all of them wishing to remain anonymous -- complained about the way they were treated while working at the show. Several said they were fired after taking time off to attend funerals or deal with health problems while a black woman said she experienced discrimination and racist comments from her higher-ups and peers.
“If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what's going on,” one former employee told BuzzFeed. “I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody's happy,’ and she just believes that, but it's her responsibility to go beyond that.”
The show’s executive producers -- Mary Connelly, Ed Glavin and Andy Lassner -- gave BuzzFeed a statement that read:
"Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment," they said. "We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.
"For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better."
Ellen first debuted in syndication in 2003. It’s headed into its 18th season. It’s currently the third-highest-rated daily talk show in syndication, behind Dr. Phil and Live with Kelly and Ryan. In the week ended July 19, Ellen, in summer repeats, held for the third straight week at its series low of 1.1 in households, according to Nielsen. The show was renewed in May 2019 through the 2021-22 TV season.
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.