It’s time to change the channel on reality TV

By Ilias Bakalla

It’s time to change the channel on reality TV.

Reality TV villain contestants have spoken out about how their lives have been destroyed by the way their characters are shown on screen — and this type of storytelling needs to stop.

David Witko, who appeared as a contestant on the 2015 season of The Bachelorette, said his modelling career ended after his appearance.

When he failed to get a rose and was eliminated from the show, he left in dramatic fashion, telling the bachelorette he was “happy not to receive a rose” and that she “judged a little bit too quickly”.

As he walked off, one contestant called him a “jackass”.

He has since said the sequence was cut from various points within the rose-giving ceremony and they failed to broadcast when he returned and hugged every contestant before saying a final goodbye.

He said his agent no longer received calls for work for him, and when applying for new modelling jobs clients rejected him because the villain from The Bachelorette was bad for their brand. He also received significant abuse from people online.

It’s true that contestants willingly go on the show, possibly motivated in part by being on TV.

They shouldn’t consider it unless they have thick skin. But, thick skin or not, there is something unethical about producers editing the contestants’ words and actions to fit the narrative.

Earlier this year the United Kingdom's government launched an inquiry into the duty of care production companies have over contestants on reality TV shows. It comes after two people who appeared on reality TV committed suicide.

A landmark case in Australia found Channel 7 was the employer of reality show contestant Nicole Prince and therefore liable for any psychological injury caused by her appearance on House Rules in 2017.

While the dollar amount is undisclosed, I predict this case will shape the way production companies treat their reality TV contestants now they are deemed accountable for their welfare.

An hour of schadenfreude for the viewer and some expensive advertising space can result in a lifetime of pain and even suicidal thoughts for the contestants.

Sure, reality TV is entertaining, and everyone loves to hate the villain, but at what cost?


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