Ofcom demands TV shows provide duty of care to guests

Ofcom demands TV shows provide duty of care to guests

December 18, 2020

Ofcom demands TV shows provide duty of care to guests amid ‘steady rise in welfare complaints’ in wake of Jeremy Kyle and Love Island deaths

  • TV watchdog Ofcom has demanded TV shows provide duty of care to guests
  • Television and radio programmes will be forced to ‘look after’ participants
  • It follows scrutiny in the wake of Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island deaths
  • For support call Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website samaritans.org 

Ofcom has demanded TV shows provide duty of care to participants following a ‘steady rise in complaints’ in the wake of criticism over ITV’s Love Island and the Jeremy Kyle Show.

The TV watchdog said television and radio programmes will now face tough new rules on ‘properly looking after’ their guests.

It has announced new measures ‘in recognition of the growing openness and concern in society about mental health and wellbeing’.  

‘We have also seen a steady rise in complaints about the welfare of people taking part in programmes in recent years,’ the TV watchdog said.

Broadcasters will need to take due care in programmes featuring ‘conflict or emotionally challenging situations’ or if it ‘requires a person to disclose life-changing or private aspects of their lives’.

It comes amid increased scrutiny following the deaths of former Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, and the suspected suicide of guest Steve Dymond, who died following a drug overdose after appearing on the Jeremy Kyle Show in 2019. 

Concerns about the show were raised again this year after Love Island host Caroline Flack killed herself while awaiting trial on assault charges. 


Ofcom has demanded TV shows provide duty of care to participants following the deaths of former Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon (left) and Mike Thalassitis (right)

ITV’s Jeremy Kyle Show was axed in May 2019 following the suspected suicide of 63-year-old Steven Dymond after he failed a lie detector test while filming an episode of the show

Adam Baxter, Ofcom’s director of standards and audience protection, said: ‘People taking part in TV and radio programmes deserve to be properly looked after.

‘Our new protections set a clear standard of care for broadcasters to meet – striking a careful balance between broadcasters’ creative freedom and the welfare of the people they feature.’

Ofcom said people taking part in programmes must be informed about any potential welfare risks from appearing.

Treatment of people who appear to be put at risk of significant harm, as a result of taking part in a programme, is now included as an explicit example of material that may cause offence to audiences.

The measures do not apply to most news and current affairs programming, and will apply to programmes that begin production from early April.  

ITV’s chief executive had been forced to defend her channel for letting the Jeremy Kyle show run for 15 years before Mr Dymond’s death.

Dame Carolyn McCall was forced to defend the longevity of the Jeremy Kyle Show while giving evidence to MPs about how Covid-19 has affected the channel. 

The Jeremy Kyle Show was axed in 2019 following the suspected suicide of one of its guests 

A number of Love Island contestants have committed suicide, and show host Caroline Flack killed herself this year in her London flat while awaiting trial

In a fiery exchange with Julian Knight, Tory chair of the Commons culture committee, Dame Carolyn defended the processes followed by the production and said that the show had been on air for 15 years and more than a million people watched it every day on ITV. 

Mr Dymond was found dead after he failed a lie detector test while filming an episode of the show in May 2019.

Mr Knight said: ‘The use of the lie detector tests and it being presented as absolutely infallible on issues that are absolutely life changing for people who come on the show its reprehensible, those people deserve some sort of reparation.’

Dame Carolyn said: ‘I have a lot of sympathy for people who went on willingly to do a lie detector test.

‘They are legal, they were not illegal. It was very clear at the start of this programme that they could be inaccurate. It never claimed there was 100% accuracy, it actually said on every show that lie detector tests could be inaccurate.

‘These people were also briefed about that, every participant was briefed about lie detector tests and I’m afraid a lot of people went on the show to do it. 

‘As you know, I’ve also said we won’t be using lie detector tests in the future on any shows. We have already closed that down because we feel, even if you say this, the people interpret because they so believe in the test… it’s open to misinterpretation.’

Mr Knight hit back: ‘So it was the contestants fault that they believed the lie detector tests were true?’    

ITV axed the Winter series of Love Island, with the show returning to screens in 2021

He added: ‘The Roman Coliseum held 55,000, it doesn’t mean because it was popular it was right.’ The ITV chief executive hit back: ‘It has been regulated for 15 years,’ to which Mr Knight replied: ‘Not well enough.’ 

Dame Carolyn also told the committee that she would let her children go on Love Island after MP Kevin Brennan told her that ITV’s reality TV measures sounded like ‘provisions for someone with PTSD’. 

She had told MPs: ‘What we are trying to do is prevent people coming back out of a very compressed environment. 

‘A lot of people love it, they have spoken up and said they enjoy being in it. We are trying to prevent them coming back to the world and not adapting because their lives have changed a bit because of the experiences they have had. 

‘Your question was about my own children, I would say if they were completely appraised of it… I wouldn’t say no.’ 

It comes after an inquest heard that a Jeremy Kyle Show producer hanged herself after she struggled to find work when the programme was axed.  

Natasha Reddican, 31, a producer on the show for six years, drank a ‘significant’ amount of alcohol after a scheduled job interview online did not take place and then killed herself

Ms Reddican (third left with Jeremy Kyle and other colleagues) lost her job along with others on the show in the wake of the suspected suicide of guest Steve Dymond who died following a drug overdose after appearing on the show in May 2019

Natasha Reddican a producer on the show for six years, drank a ‘significant’ amount of alcohol after a scheduled job interview online did not take place and then killed herself. 

The 31-year-old was found by her boyfriend when he returned from work to their home in Salford, Greater Manchester, on February 27 and was later pronounced dead by paramedics.

Ms Reddican lost her job along with others on the show in the wake of the suspected suicide of Mr Dymond after he failed a lie-detector test while filming an episode of the show in May 2019.  

Her mother, Laraine Law, told an inquest in Bolton that her daughter’s job was ‘everything to her’.

She said: ‘For that to be taken from her in such a sudden and unexpected way, she became down and depressed. I think it really knocked her.’

She said Ms Reddican, known to family and friends as Tash, had an ‘amazing, bubbly personality’ but she added: ‘Sometimes when she was a bit down or a bit low she would drink… and then you see that vulnerable side.’ 

Boyfriend Mackenzie Hanafan, who worked with her on the daytime show, said: ‘Tash worked so hard to get the job and did it very well and had the respect of all of her colleagues.’ 

For support call Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website samaritans.org 

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