Media watchdog Ofcom has announced it is proposing new rules to protect participants in TV and radio shows and to ensure they are properly cared for by broadcasters.
The regulator said it would add two rules to the existing Broadcasting Code, which will protect the welfare of participants in reality shows, documentaries, news and current affairs, phone-ins, quiz shows, talent contests and other forms of factual and entertainment programmes, but not drama, sitcoms or soaps.
The new rules state that “due care must be taken over the welfare, wellbeing and dignity of participants in programmes”. The second states that “participants must not be caused unjustified distress or anxiety by taking part in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes”.
The rules have been proposed as the finale of Love Island aired on ITV2 last night. ITV had announced before the launch of this year’s series that Love Island stars would be offered therapy, social media training and financial advice in the wake of the deaths of former contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.
The Jeremy Kyle show was also axed in May after guest Steve Dymond died shortly after the filming of an episode.
The proposed Ofcom rules reflect the fact that very different forms and levels of care may be appropriate, depending on the person participating, a programme’s format and the nature of the participation, Ofcom said.
The watchdog said it wished to ensure the proposed new rules did not make programmes less likely to feature people with vulnerabilities, as there was a public interest in their representation.
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 will offer guidance to help broadcasters interpret and apply the new rules and is inviting feedback from broadcasters before issuing final decisions in the winter.
The guidance might include what broadcasters should do to look after participants before, during and after production. It would also consider editorial techniques involving participants such as the use of lie detectors.
Ofcom cited the 25,322 complaints it received about Celebrity Big Brother last summer after Roxanne Pallett claimed her fellow housemate Ryan Thomas had physically assaulted her.