In a surprise announcement, Bunim/Murray Productions announced yesterday that it has decided to cancel plans for its previously announced The Real World Philadelphia series. "After considerable evaluation, we are disappointed to announce that Bunim/Murray Productions has decided not to shoot The Real World in Philadelphia," a spokeswoman told the Philadelphia Inquirer, while declining to elaborate further.

While Bunim/Murray declined to comment further on the reason for the cancellation, the Inquirer had no such problems, reporting that the series -- scheduled to begin shooting in only three weeks -- was cancelled as the result of ongoing squabbles and picketing from local labor unions who objected to the company's use of non-union contractors being employed to complete the renovations to the chosen house site.

Bunim/Murray has reportedly never used organized labor during its thirteen previous seasons -- which included other union strongholds such as Boston, New York City, and Chicago -- and had retained a suburban non-union firm named Apple Construction to renovate the building, identified as the former Seamen's Church Institute building in the Old City part of Philadelphia.

The selection of the non-union suburban firm reportedly incensed the urban union groups, and as a result Teamsters, painters, carpenters and electricians began picketing the site two weeks ago -- a move that forced Bunim/Murray to go to court in an attempt to limit the number of pickets at the location.

Bunim/Murray reportedly began talks with the union groups, but according to The Inquirer, not only were the talks complicated by the fact that the project was already 70% completed, but the producers were leery of setting a "precedent" that might hamper their flexibility for future editions of the popular MTV program. Additionally, Bunim/Murray was also reportedly upset over the Teamsters demands for ongoing jobs during the program's filming schedule and concerned that the unions might stage on-camera protests during the four month taping process.

Stating that the pull-out "could give a black eye to the city and its growing film and TV production industry," the Inquirer notes that this is apparently just the latest union labor controversy to cripple the city's filmmaking and convention industries and comes less than a year after the city, state and unions had resolved a crippling labor controversy that had resulted in the failure to book a single multi-day trade show at the city's convention center during the previous four years.

Union representatives denied they were to blame for the Real World departure, which numerous civic groups had hoped would help boost the city's image and had announced with much fanfare by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, who had worked for years to bring the program to the city.

"Every other production company comes in, sits down and bargains," Tony Frasco, vice president of Teamsters Local 107, whose members drive and unload vehicles, told The Inquirer. "The unions are not out to gouge anybody, but this is a union town." "If to leave Philadelphia, that's their business," Frasco said. "It wasn't because of the unions. They'll just go to a town that will allow that."

At least one non-union group told the paper that the decision didn't surprise them. "What else is new in Philadelphia?," Jeff Zeh, president of the Southeast Pennsylvania chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors Inc., which represents non-union contractors, told The Inquirer. "You saw the list of the cities where they've produced their projects, and Philadelphia is the only one where they had a problem," Zeh added. "It really is a sad commentary."

As far as where the fifteenth season of The Real World will now film, apparently no decision has been made yet, as the Bunim/Murray spokeswoman told The Inquirer that she did not know which city would replace Philadelphia.