DCMS Committee Inquiry Into Reality TV – Our Thoughts

Yesterday, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Commons Select Committee began a Parliamentary inquiry to consider the industry’s duty of care towards contributors to ask whether or not enough support is offered pre, during and post-filming, and if there is a need for further regulatory oversight in this area.

The decision came after the death of a guest following filming for The Jeremy Kyle Show and the deaths of two former contestants in the reality dating show Love Island.

Here at the Film & Television Charity, we very much welcome this as a timely and positive step towards supporting the wellbeing of those the industry works with, including vulnerable contributors.

However, we also encourage the Committee to broaden the scope of the inquiry to look at the experiences of not just those in the spotlight, but also those just outside the spotlight: the 180,000 men and women who work behind the camera in TV and film.

We hear many stories of stress and strain and evidence from abroad suggests much higher incidence of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation amongst those working in the sector than those in the general population.

Unpublished work from Dart Centre Europe, funded by Wellcome, also highlights the potentially harmful impact on industry workers of working on programming with vulnerable contributors specifically – and the human cost of ‘keeping the cameras rolling’.

In response to these developments, we are now conducting large-scale original research to properly understand the nature and prevalence of mental ill-health in our sector. Using this, we will work with industry to develop practical and scaleable interventions that can improve the way we work in television and film, and are convening an Industry Taskforce on Mental Health to do this. This evidence is vital to building a comprehensive and effective mental health response – from the industry.

Despite the perceived ‘glitz and glamour’ the industry is two-thirds freelance and the long list of people in the credits often lead precarious and difficult work-lives. They love what they do, and because of this will put themselves on the line for their work. It’s time for the industry to reflect on the duty of care and the potential vulnerabilities of its own wider workforce.

We would be pleased to share our insights and findings from the research with the Committee.

Read more about our study The Looking Glass