Does Reality TV need an Overhaul?

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Does Reality TV need an Overhaul?

Is it just me or has everyone been on an embarrassingly low rating reality TV show?

Back in 2006, John and I went on a weight loss program called Overhaul.  It’s ratings were so poor on the first Sunday night outing it was immediately bumped to late nights, the last show before they start running infomercials.

Social media was just getting started then but our show still had a villain and a darling (I was neither.)

It is true that you sign your life away to reality TV.  They get you when you’re naïve and excited about the prospect of being on the idiot box and you happily sign anything.  I know we did.  If the show had been successful, I am pretty sure what I signed would have locked me in to Channel Nine for more than a year.

I promised to make free appearances, shun all other media offers and endorsement deals.  Ultimately it didn’t affect me because our show was a flop but if Overhaul had made me a star I would have kicked myself for signing that contract.

This week, reality TV got a wake-up call. In a landmark decision, the Australian Workers Compensation Commission has ruled Channel Seven was the employer of House Rules contestant Nicole Prince and liable for trauma she suffered on the show.

There is a long line of reality contestants keen to follow suit.

In the past decade reality TV has become increasingly nasty.  Ratings are fuelled by controversy and if you sign on then you should be prepared for anything. Suggesting that in 2019 you didn’t know there could be fall out, just doesn’t cut it.

I don’t think people who make reality TV are evil they are just ratings driven and reality contestants are grist for the mill. It is that brutal, the contestants are pawns only there to drive profit.  It’s not a holiday camp.

But that doesn’t mean the producers don’t have a duty of care.

Tracey Jewel, a former contestant on Married at First Sight, said she started seeing a psychologist after the show. She was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and says she “never” received any financial support for ongoing mental health costs from production company Endemol or Channel Nine.

Social media has given the public far too much access to reality contestants and the TV station’s treatment of contestants needs to reflect that, both on and off the air.

Not all reality TV experiences are negative. These shows have kick-started careers for thousands of contestants, propelling them into pop careers, broadcasting and all sorts of endorsement deals.  John and I lost heaps of weight, made lifelong friends and enjoyed a couple of free holidays. Unfortunately, you can’t sue a weight loss show because you got fat again.

Most of all, the public needs to remember it’s just TV, not a blood sport.

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