Ofcom has updated their guidance to ensure broadcasters look after the welfare of individuals who take part in TV programmes.
In recent years, there has been more attention brought to the welfare of people who appear on reality television and chat shows, following the suicides of Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis after their appearances on Love Island, and the death of The Jeremy Kyle Show guest Steve Dymond.
Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has updated its guidance on how broadcasters should ‘avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes’, by sharing practises for treating ‘individuals or organisations directly affected by programmes, rather than to what the general public sees and/or hears as viewers and listeners’, and ‘dealing with individuals or organisations participating in or otherwise directly affected by programmes as broadcast’.
The update reads: ‘Broadcasters should take due care over the welfare of a contributor who might be at risk of significant harm as a result of taking part in a programme, except where the subject matter is trivial or their participation minor.’
A contributor may be regarded as being at risk of significant harm as a result of taking part in a programme if they are considered a vulnerable person, they are not used to being in the public eye, or if the programme involves being filmed in an ‘artificial or constructed environment’ and is likely to attract a high level of press, media and social media interest.
A contributor may also be considered to be at risk if key editorial elements of the programme include potential confrontation, conflict, emotionally challenging situations, or the show requires them to discuss, reveal, or engage with sensitive, life changing or private aspects of their lives.
The guidance reads: ‘Broadcasters should conduct a risk assessment to identify any risk of significant harm to the contributor, unless it is justified in the public interest not to do so.
‘The level of care due to the contributor will be proportionate to the level of risk associated with their participation in the programme.’
It is unclear how long this duty of care for a TV or radio contributor’s welfare lasts after the broadcast of a programme.
This comes as it was reported that people applying for this year’s series of Love Island will be put through more rigorous psychological testing than ever before.
According to The Sun, potential islanders will have to go through three rounds of testing after the audition stage, and will also have to provide contact details for their GPs in the UK.
Sophie Gradon took her own life in June 2018, two years after starring on the second series of Love Island, while Mike Thalassitis, who was on the third series, died by suicide in 2019.
Last year, former host Caroline Flack died by suicide aged 40.
New measures introduced for the show after Mike’s death included social media training, psychological assessments and a minimum of eight therapy sessions when islanders leave the villa.
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