Big Brother cleared of exploiting vulnerable housemates

Marc Shoffman September 20, 2006
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Channel 4’s reality show Big Brother has been cleared of accusations that it exploited vulnerable people for entertainment in this year’s series.

Mental health organisations complained to media regulator Ofcom claiming the reality show was putting unfair stress on unstable housemates such as Shahbaz who threatened to kill himself on air, Tourette’s sufferer Pete and pre-op transsexual Sam.

But an Ofcom report released this week cleared the channel, concluding that the show had sensitively edited scenes to avoid undue harm.

It said: “By including scenes featuring individuals upset and in conflict with other housemates, Channel 4 offered viewers an insight into the housemates.

“In Ofcom’s view this is in line with both the audience and the contestants’ expectations.”

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, raised the issue during the show’s run last summer, she said: “Housemates with vulnerable mental conditions are being used for entertainment.

“A trigger for suicide is putting these kind of people under stress. It is very dangerous.”

A Channel 4 spokeswoman for Big Brother defended the show, she told “As always, the welfare of all the housemates is of utmost importance to us. Housemates are intensively screened by professionals to ensure they are psychologically strong enough to cope with their experiences.

“During their time in the house, housemates are monitored 24 hours a day and psychologists are also on hand to talk through any concerns they may have. Big Brother also encourages housemates to try and resolve any issues between them, should that be possible.”

Over 270 people complained about the show which was won by Pete Bennett last month.

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