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British Government Launches Reality-TV Probe After Suicide of Talk-Show Participant

The British government is conducting an inquiry into reality television after the recent suicide of a participant on ITV’s “The Jeremy Kyle Show,” which resulted in the long-running talk show’s cancellation. Parliament’s culture and media committee announced the probe Wednesday hours after ITV CEO Carolyn McCall confirmed that production on “The Jeremy Kyle Show” would be permanently closed down.

The Jerry Springer-style talk show found itself in the cross-hairs after a participant, Steve Dymond, was found dead last Thursday from an apparent suicide. The week before, Dymond had filmed an episode of show in which he reportedly took a lie-detector test to determine if he had cheated on his fiancée, which he failed. The episode has not aired.

Dymond’s death follows the recent suicides of two former “Love Island” contestants. Sophie Gradon, who appeared on the 2016 season of “Love Island,” died in June 2018. This was followed in March this year by the death of Mike Thalassitis, who took part in the 2017 season of the reality show, which features a cast of beautiful young singles looking for love and romance in Majorca.

The parliamentary inquiry will consider production companies’ duty of care to TV show participants and whether sufficient support is offered both during and after filming. It will also consider whether further regulatory oversight is required of the reality-TV sector in the U.K.

Damian Collins, who chair’s the committee, said that although ITV had “made the right decision” in permanently canceling the “Jeremy Kyle Show,” that “should not be the end of the matter.”

He said programs like “The Jeremy Kyle Show” risked “putting people who might be vulnerable on to a public stage at a point in their lives when they are unable to foresee the consequences, either for themselves or their families….This kind of TV featuring members of the public attracts viewing figures in the millions but in return for ratings, the broadcasters must demonstrate their duty of care to the people whose personal lives are being exposed,” Collins said.

ITV pulled Monday’s scheduled broadcast of the daytime show. In a statement Tuesday, the broadcaster confirmed it would not air the episode in question and would suspend production. It maintained that “The Jeremy Kyle Show” had “significant and detailed duty-of-care processes in place for contributors pre-, during and post-show.”

Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, was among many calling for the show to be permanently canceled, calling it “the theater of cruelty.” British minister Charles Walker told the BBC it was “a watershed moment.” A spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May called Dymond’s death “deeply concerning.”

In a statement Wednesday, McCall said: “Given the gravity of recent events we have decided to end production on ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show.’ ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ has had a loyal audience and has been made by a dedicated production team for 14 years, but now is the right time for the show to end.”

ITV said it would continue to work with Kyle on other projects.

“The Jeremy Kyle Show” has aired more than 3,000 episodes since its launch in 2005. It features members of the public discussing relationship issues and other personal issues and conflicts in front of a studio audience, often resulting in heated confrontations mediated by Kyle. Lie-detector tests were a regular feature of the show.

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