Reality TV has a duty of care towards its contestants
Susan Boyle's star burned brighter and faster than anyone else in
history. No one has gone from as unknown to as widely known in as
short a time. However, she seems to be suffering now and with a new
series of Big Brother to start on Thursday should the producers of
these programmes do more to help?
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Contestants as individuals
The profit gained by reality programmes should be partly used to aid the recovery of effected individuals. The BGT final attracted 19.2 million viewers [[Urmee Khan, Telegraph, 31st May 2009]] a success for the producers; the upshot being that Susan Boyle was suffering from exhaustion. Whilst the producers were making a profit out of other people's talent, those who had the talent were feeling the strain. Surely it is those with the talent that should profit, not suffer, due to their talent.
Let us not forget the vast amount of success Susan Boyle and other reality stars have achieved through such shows. Surely they have gained enough off of the back of the show to care for, or hire someone else to care, for themselves.
children are allowed to audition and so extra care should be owed
A case could be made that adults make an educated choice to participate in such shows and so should only have themselves to blame if the fame becomes too much. That they should know themselves whether they can deal with the pressure. However, such an argument cannot be made with regards to children. Here, if no where else, a duty of care should be owed. The heartbreaking struggle of Hollie Steel bursting into tears on live television was nothing more than a display of the need for a duty of care. Children need additional support. But what age do you draw the line at? 16? 18? 21? Instead of making arbitrary distinctions, surely such a duty of care should be owed to everyone.
Children have guardians who are responsible for them. Their parents/guardians/caretakers are adults and should be able to make an educated choice to enter their children in these shows/contests.
There are laws and social norms protecting children from parental abuse and also obliging parents to perform certain duties to protect and nurture their children.
Legally, socially and otherwise parents are responsible for their children and 'responsible' parents 'do' try to make sure that their child is safe, happy and not made to do things that s/he will regret in the future.
However child celebrity or not, grownups always end up having something to cry/complain about: Something incredibly embarrassing that happened to them as tiny tots.
There is not a single child who hasn't thrown a tantrum or felt 'bad'. The extremity of emotional response is not equivalent to that of the stimulus. Irrespective of whether your audience is big or small when you are upset, you are simply upset, period.
Non-celebrities have mental/emotional/psychological/family
/relationship/privacy problems too. People growing up in joint family systems, from years of mockery and replays of humiliating events develop a thick skin and 'better' cope with trauma or socially awkward situations.
Exposing a person to his/her fears is a very effective means of eradicating phobia.
People volunteer themselves, knowing what is involved.
If screening was put in place then this would limit the talent that the show is in search of. Talented individuals could be turned away due to a lack of personal resilience, but this is neither fair nor productive. Reality TV shows provide people with the opportunity to enter the fickle reality fame game. It provides people with a spring board for careers. When people apply to such shows, they make a decision weighing up that opportunity with the potential strain and scrutiny. Far be it for anyone to take that choice away.
Broadcasters know more about overnight fame than contestants. Contestants may have an idea but they will not know how it will effect them like the broadcasters who will have seen this occur many times and will have experience in dealing with such matters. Consequently when the contestant is taking this 'balancing exercise, they are not putting the relevant weight on the factors that fame can throw up. If nothing else, producers should remind contestants of the impact of overnight fame and ask them to re assess their choice based upon whether they think they can cope with the pressure.
It is the media and public that puts the pressure on contestants, so why do they not owe the duty of care?
It is not the producers that put pressure on contestants. It is the surrounding circumstances created by factors out of reality TV producers control, namely the public themselves! It is highly hypocritical, the media and public attention to this 'duty of care' bonanza considering it is those very people that cause the pressure which makes contestants feel pressured, sometimes leaving contestants incapable of coping. Perhaps it is the public and the media that need to change, not the code of conduct of mere television producers.
It is the shows that want to generate as much media and public attention as possible(improve ratings/make money).And it is the shows that benefit the most, financially from it.It is only fair that the show offer compensation for possible damages.Reality show contestants only get paid if they win, the rest are exploited for ratings and skyrocketed into fame without monetary compensation or protection. It is only fair that all the contestants get a share of the show's profits , for their ordeal and screen time.
On a side note: However the 'government' of a welfare state should be and is responsible for paying the costs of its citizens'( celebs and non-celebs) mental, psychological,financial and physical health and well-being.
it is impractical to expect broadcasters to screen every contestant.
There are thousands of applicants to reality TV shows. People are picked on the basis of their talent, their likeability and how entertaining they are. To add psychological assessment to this list is a step too far. It is not practically possible. The screening process is already gruelling. Some could argue that the prospect of a psychological assessment is pressure enough for those who have a predisposition to stress or lack of resilience. It cannot be the place of TV producers to assess the mental health of the many that apply. Surely this is a media spin encouraging commercial businesses to fund the jobs that the NHS should be doing.
I agree, that is the government's job. The show should pay contestants for participating, since their participation helps the show's ratings/profits.And it is the show's responsibility to not deliberately push people into hysteria JUST to create hype and improve ratings. Contestants do not sign up for extreme humiliation or tasteless mockery. A rude judge, however entertaining is greatly irresponsible because s/he is making rudeness acceptable and permissible for everyone, we are all sensitive/touchy at times and perhaps proud of our crazy comebacks but in the end, no one's really happy. It is only entertaining because we empathise/empathize with the victim and/or the attacker.
What do you think?