As of Monday the 5th of April, guidance from Ofcom to protect the mental health of reality TV stars comes into effect. This new guidance was established in December of last year, when Ofcom stated they had seen a “steady rise in complaints about the mental health and wellbeing of programme participants”.
Ofcom launched a review into their existing protections for reality TV participants in 2019, very likely as a result of the deaths of Sophie Gradon (2018) and Mike Thalassitis (2019), both contestants on Love Island who died by suicide. This review was made all the more pertinent by the subsequent death of Caroline Flack, who presented the show, in February of 2020 – Caroline Flack also died by suicide.
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This alarming number of people associated with the reality TV show having died by suicide undoubtedly resulted in the rise in complaints Ofcom reported.
The aims of the 2019 review from Ofcom were as follows:
- to make sure the welfare of people who take part in television and radio programmes is protected; and
- to make sure audiences are protected from uncontextualized offence that can arise from seeing or hearing vulnerable participants in programmes whose welfare they think might not have been protected.
Ofcom met for consultation on July 29th 2019 and March 13th 2020 following the decision to enact this review. As a result of these two consultations they proposed to amend the Broadcasting Code to establish new provisions which would ensure the above objectives were met in a “flexible and proportionate way”.
The regulator of the Ofcom review has said that the reforms are aimed at “protecting vulnerable people and others not used to being in the public eye”.
Ofcom break down their amendments in further detail, stating “we have decided to amend Section Seven of the Code to introduce two new Practices to follow, to ensure that broadcasters take due care of people who may be at risk of significant harm due to their participation in programmes”.
In this statement they also reiterated their aim of protecting audiences from viewing the treatment of people “who appear to be put at risk of significant harm” and they finish noting the amendment of a rule relating to due care of under eighteens.
These amendments of the Broadcasting Code, certainly point to the fact that attitudes towards the prevention of suicide in all facets of our culture are progressing in the right direction.
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