Television And the Duty of Care

Following the death of the former Love Island contestant, Mike Thalassitis, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said that television has a duty of care.

Yesterday ITV took the decision to stop airing the hugely successful Jeremy Kyle programme due to the death of a guest on the show – the programme had yet to be seen on our television sets.

So how did British reality tv get to this point? Many point to the rise of voyeurism in television, a trend where viewers watched other ordinary people, sometimes in uncomfortable situations, e.g. Big Brother. Entertainment programmes like these were certainly popular and were a ratings hit.

There’s no denying that the fight for audience share is brutal, competing with satellite tv and also streaming services, the competition just keeps getting tougher. This has pushed the creativity of programmes, to find the next new British treasure or obsession or format. How far can we push it? With ever tighter budgets, programmes are given tighter and tighter turnaround times and crews work longer and longer days.

Show business certainly isn’t a glamorous business.

Has the duty of care been kept up with the same level of relentlessness? It certainly appears that, going by some of the interviews given by previous guests on The Jeremy Kyle Show, it may not have been consistent. We will find out shortly from the government’s inquiry into the level of support offered to those participating in reality TV shows.

It has certainly made the British television industry remind themselves of why they make programmes. How far should be we push entertainment, even if it is popular?