Spain aims to change child actor laws

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MADRID - Child actors in demand from Spain's prolific cinema, theatre and TV industries need better protection from exploitation by pushy parents and unscrupulous producers, Madrid authorities said Tuesday.

Some young actors were working long hours, missing out on an education and ending up psychologically damaged from their moment in the spotlight, said Carmen Gonzalez Madrid, assistant to Madrid's child protection ombudsman.

The ombudsman has asked the Madrid parliament to introduce by-laws to limit children's working hours to fewer than five a day, to ban them from working between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. and to specify the type of work they can do.

The office says children are only protected now through collective agreements in the acting industry and hopes new working legislation could be extended throughout Spain.

"A child has to be a child, play and go to school", Gonzalez said. "A child doesn't have the maturity to assimilate certain frustrations that an adult could do, such as why today he is in Vogue and tomorrow he isn't."

In the last decade or so, acting jobs for under 16-year-olds have multiplied in Spain, with children needed to fill parts in everything from popular sitcoms to big budget films.

In the Spanish capital alone, the provincial labor office last year issued around 2,000 work permits to actors under 16 compared to around 40 in 1993.

In January, 12-year-old Ivana Baquero won a Spanish Goya film award for best up-and-coming actress for her role in Guillermo del Toro's much-acclaimed film "Pan's Labyrinth".
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