Consider innocent victims in reality show shambles

By Moira Billinge

Even if you have not watched a popular morning 'reality' programme on television, you surely cannot have escaped seeing at least a few of the trailers for the show prior to its transmission. I would normally avoid such fare, but while looking for another channel I happened upon it – and was so horrified that I was riveted by what I was seeing and hearing.

The programme is supposed to be a vehicle in which people are encouraged to air their grievances and sort out their problems, a vehicle for reconciling an across-the-board variety of individuals entangled in the most complex situations imaginable. Yet in the tension of the studio, the atmosphere is obviously so tinder-box volatile that if you lit a match within a mile of the studio, the whole set would go up in flames.

The screaming and shouting, the swearing and finger-pointing, the attempts by participants to throttle or punch each other – these were just the tip of the iceberg. Accusations from every corner of the set, including the audience, rained down amid feeble attempts – by shaven-headed, bemused-looking, muscle-pumped security guards – to control the individuals and stop them injuring each other during their 15 minutes of 'fame'.

The more unruly the show became, the better the theatre for the audience. The multiple cameras relayed – with high-digital clarity – the full gruesome scenario as it unfolded around the hapless, often drug and alcohol-fuelled participants ... some of whom had not quite acclimatised to being up before lunchtime.

I watched as people broke down in tears on stage, but there weren't any conveniently placed tissues around. Instead, a 'Good Samaritan' was beckoned forward by the host and a box was delivered with a ceremonial flourish of beneficence to the grateful recipients. As horrible as all this is, my concern was reserved for the battle over the custody and paternity of wholly innocent and unsuspecting babies and children being aired in the centre of this TV 'war zone'.

Frequent camera shots in the direction of these little ones provided the required ‘ahh’ factor – and confirmed that they were, mercifully, in another room, beyond earshot and out of sight of the fracas taking place. In this day and age, though, the recording of each programme will be available for those children to access at some point, enabling them to witness the dreadful behaviour of their parents and families. So while they may be oblivious to it now, it is only for the short term; the footage can be watched across the world by anyone at the press of a button.

Until recently, most of us could look back to our earliest years and leaf through photo albums charting our growing up, but sadly we have now facilitated the very real possibility of potentially vulnerable individuals being confronted with unedifying scenarios from their past. Their privacy is totally violated as their family's dirty washing is aired in public – all in the name of entertainment.

I would like to ask why no one seems to be flagging this up and can only conclude that the revenue received by the TV and advertising companies is sufficiently lucrative, in their opinion, to justify the discomfiture of the parties involved. It is cruel and unfair, and for the youngsters in question it is an abuse lying in wait for their future.