Research Seminar: Reality television, ethics and care: about time for regulation?

This talk considers the need for ethics and care to be mobilised together in a regulatory framework that is sensitive to the form and potential of reality television.

Professor Helen Wood investigates the evolution of reality television as a site where ‘ordinary’ members of the public have become the stars of many television shows without any specific regulatory oversight or any direct expectations around ethical protocols or ‘duty of care’.

Whilst academics have pointed to some problematic practices, this year a parliamentary inquiry has begun to question reality television production in the light of three suicides of participants of Love Island and The Jeremy Kyle Show.

The inquiry draws attention to some key issues related to the nature of media production more broadly that will be explored in this talk. For instance, who should be treated as cultural workers and who should have access to working rights and protection? What performance rights should participants have over their images?

What might tighter regulatory controls around ‘duty of care’, as proposed by Ofcom, mean for the kind of programming that is made, drawing out tensions between textual experimentation and the protection of the ‘cast’, and whether more strict regulatory pressures might have a negative impact upon the progress towards greater diversity in television.

Helen Wood is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Lancaster.