TV networks are reviewing their policies around care of contestants in the aftermath of the death of a man who had appeared on controversial UK talkshow The Jeremy Kyle Show and suicides linked to Love Island UK.
TVNZ pulled The Jeremy Kyle Show off air amid an investigation into the reality programme over the apparent suicide of a man.
As Three and TVNZ gear up for new local reality shows — Married at First Sight NZ, Love Island NZ and Celebrity Treasure Island — the broadcasters say they are considering how to best look after the talent.
A MediaWorks' spokeswoman said: "We are saddened by the recent events in the UK and, as we have always done, we regularly review our duty of care policies across all shows to ensure they are robust and fitting for each show."
A TVNZ spokeswoman said the network prided itself on its "robust duty of care". "We are vigilant in looking at what is happening overseas and are continually looking to see if it's applicable here, to make any improvements. We take all contestant feedback and look at how we can assist more with, in particular, the coping mechanisms around instant fame and social media abuse."
Reality shows that have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons include TVNZ's Celebrity Treasure Island in 2004 where Lana Coc-Kroft was hospitalised after becoming dangerously ill from cutting herself on coral during filming.
Three's X Factor New Zealand judges Natalia Kills and Willy Moon were fired after they launched a tirade of abuse at contestant Joe Irvine in 2015. And MAFS NZ contestant Haydn Daniels claimed wife Bel Clarke discovered a hidden camera in their apartment in 2017. The pair then watched footage which showed producers mocking Clarke's emotional state.
The makers of such shows walk a fine line, treading between entertainment to drive audience and ensuring nothing crosses the line into bullying.
TVNZ says it has healthcare professionals to look after for contestants physical and mental wellbeing and an on-call psychologist to give professional help to all contestants. After filming wraps, contestants are given training on handling media, managing social media and general wellness. They also have a scheduled weekly check-in.
At Three, there is psych-testing as part of the application process. Throughout filming the network and production company are in constant communication with participants and all have access to independent psychological support, while the show is on air and after the show finishes, if required. Three also say prior to committing to the show, participants are thoroughly advised on what to expect once they are in the public eye. Post-filming, they are also given advice and guidance on navigating their way as a public figures.
Celebrity Treasure Island, MAFS NZ and Love Island NZ are due to start filming in the next few months.
- by Ricardo Simich