Ofcom is taking steps to add two new rules to its broadcasting code designed to protect the emotional well-being of participants in TV and radio programmes. The regulator is planning guidance to interpret and apply them.
Concerns over the mental health impact of reality shows
These changes come amid concerns from viewers and participants of reality tv shows around how these programmes impact mental health and the ongoing support that is given after a participant has left the show. Shows such as The Circle and Love Island have been criticized for the level of aftercare given, and ITV came under fire again after a participant on Jeremy Kyle took his own life.
This has prompted ITV to release a new safety initiative of their own, aimed at protecting the participants on its shows. Whilst the duty of care charter at ITV outlines many of their efforts at promoting health and safety in the company, the new guidelines clearly show how the network intends to further safeguard the participants in its shows.
The Ofcom rules apply to reality shows, documentaries, news and current affairs programmes, phone-ins, quiz shows, talent contests and “other forms of factual and entertainment programmes”. They rules are:
- Due care must be taken over the welfare, well-being and dignity of participants in programmes
- Participants must not be caused unjustified distress or anxiety by taking part in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes
Ofcom said the rules reflected the “fact that very different forms and levels of care may be appropriate depending on the person” taking part, but that programming should still feature people with vulnerabilities, “as there is a clear public interest in their representation on TV and radio”.
“For example, guidance might include what broadcasters should do to look after participants before, during and after production,” Ofcom said in a statement. “It would also consider editorial techniques involving participants, such as the use of lie detectors.”
Tony Close, Ofcom’s director of content standards, said: “People who take part in TV and radio shows must be properly looked after by broadcasters and these rules would ensure that happens. These new safeguards must be effective. So we’re listening carefully to programme participants, broadcasters, producers and psychologists before we finalise them.”