• Ofcom wants broadcasters to take better care of contributors
  • Rules on welfare and distress added to Broadcasting Code
  • Proposals follow ITV’s cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show

Power Duo behind Love Island

Ofcom: “Take better care of contestants” on shows such as Love Island

Ofcom wants broadcasters to take better care of people who take part in factual and entertainment shows amid growing concern about the welfare of those who appear on TV.

The UK TV regulator said it had received an increasing number of complaints which expressed concern about the wellbeing of people who take part in programmes. It also cited “growing openness and concern in society about mental health and wellbeing in recent years”.

Ofcom director of content standards Tony Close 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.”

Ofcom has proposed two additions to the Broadcasting Code, which UK broadcasters must adhere to. The additions are:

  • Due care must be taken over the welfare, wellbeing 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.

The rules will apply to reality shows, documentaries, news and current affairs, phone-ins, quiz shows, talent contests and other forms of factual and entertainment programmes. Scripted content, such as drama, sitcoms or soaps, will not be covered by the new rules.

Ofcom will issue guidance on how the rules should be interpreted, such as what broadcasters should do to look after participants before, during and after production and the consideration of editorial techniques involving participants, such as the use of lie detectors.

Ofcom’s proposals come after ITV’s decision to cancel The Jeremy Kyle Show, which was dropped following the death of participant Steve Dymond who failed a lie detector test on the confrontational talk show.

Dymond’s death prompted an inquiry by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Chair of the committee Damian Collins called producers of the Jeremy Kyle Show “irresponsible” for using lie detector tests.

Ofcom has asked for feedback on the new rules and guidance by 23 September 2019. It will then issue a final decision by the end of the year.