Ofcom proposes rules to protect reality TV guests after Jeremy Kyle scandal

Regulator has opened up consultation process that will close on 23 September.

The Jeremy Kyle Show: Ofcom has proposed new rules after programme was axed
The Jeremy Kyle Show: Ofcom has proposed new rules after programme was axed

Ofcom is to add two new rules to its broadcasting code designed to protect the emotional well-being of participants in TV and radio programmes, following the death of participants in ITV's The Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island.

The regulator, which has proposed the rules today, is planning guidance to interpret and apply them, and is launching a consultation with stakeholders.

The 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 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."

Producers of The Jeremy Kyle Show, which generated £80m in ad revenue for ITV before it was cancelled, have been accused of putting guests through lie-detector tests without knowing how accurate they were. In June, Damian Collins, chair of the House of Commons culture select committee, described producers' lack of expert knowledge as "astonishing".

The committee had opened an inquiry after ITV's decision to cancel the programme in the wake of the death of Steve Dymond about a week after he failed a lie-detector test on the show.

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."

Ofcom is inviting feedback on the proposed rules and guidance by 23 September. It will issue its final decisions in the winter.

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