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Ofcom proposes new rules to protect the wellbeing of reality TV contestants


Broadcasters could now be held more responsible for the "wellbeing and dignity" of TV participants, including reality show contestants, under new proposals issued by the UK's media regulator. Ofcom has suggested two new rules which it says have been put forward following "growing openness and concern in society about mental health and well-being" in recent years.

The two new rules the regulator has proposed 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.

Ofcom already has rules in the Broadcasting Code placing responsibilities on broadcasters around programme participants, and specific guidelines on the ‘due care’ required for minors who take part in programmes

The new proposals also include suggested guidance for different stages of television production, including advising that potential participants minimise or limit social media usage after a programme has gone out on-air. It follows the controversy surrounding ITV's The Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island.

ITV has said it will offer therapy and social media training to participants of Love Island in the future.

Former Big Brother contestant Caroline Wharram, who appeared on the Channel 5 show in 2012, said she felt she had no support during and after her time on the programme.

Although she was assessed by the show's psychiatrists before entering, Ms Wharram says she was not fit to be on the show.

"I received absolutely no care from the producers.

"When I came out [of the house], I was just sort of thrown to the lions. I didn't have any help whatsoever or support and I was really ill and I really needed someone to talk to. There just wasn't anyone there available at all."

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 cited complaints it had received about other reality TV shows, including Celebrity Big Brother and Loose Women.

ITV said it welcomed the "opportunity to respond" to the review held by the regulator. The broadcaster added it will take "responsibilities around duty of care to participants very seriously".

Ofcom said it would invite feedback from broadcasters about the proposed changes until 23 September. More information on the proposals can be found on the Ofcom website here

SECE Mind welcomes the proposed improvements into further protecting the mental health of those in the public eye and the media spotlight. It is a pro-active and positive change to see Ofcom developing and improving their regulations according to ever-changing technology and media, and reacting swiftly and respectfully in light of recent events.


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