Leah Panapa: The problem with 'reality' TV

Opinion 17/05/2019

Hate speech and what we see on the internet is a daily conversation at the moment in this country, and globally. Now, whilst all our attention seems to be on the world wide web, another medium has been forgotten, that just as pervasive.

Pretty much every house in New Zealand has one; the television.

This week the story broke of the death of a guest on the British TV show “The Jeremy Kyle Show”, 63 year old Steve Dymond killed himself a week after the programme he participated on was filmed.

His landlady told media that he was ‘devastated’ and ‘humiliated’ by the way he was treated on the show and went on it to try and prove to an ex girlfriend he hadn’t cheated on her. 

For those that haven’t seen the show, here is a very small sample of some of the past shows: “I’m Sleeping with my Stepdaughter but is her baby mine”? Or “Have I been having sex with my brother?”

In 2007, a judge famously summed up the show as "a form of human bear-baiting".

The programme was "trash" that existed to "titillate bored members of the public with nothing better to do", he said. He was speaking while sentencing a guest who had head-butted his love rival during filming.

After the death of Dymond, ITV made the decision to not air the show he appeared on, and then as the condemnation grew, decided to take the show off air permanently ending the behemoth that has dominated daytime schedules for over a decade.

TVNZ plays the Jeremy Kyle show daily and initially said they would continue to broadcast episodes (not the one that Dymond appeared in) but then too later said they would take it off air.

I know we can choose not to watch these types of show, that is the simple answer, but if we are so concerned about what is posted on the internet and this country is leading the way in trying to stamp out rhetoric that ‘belittles’ or ‘bullies’ people, why are our broadcasters buying in this type of dross?

The answer is they are cheap.

Cheap to buy and easy to play instead of producing something local and of quality.

The Jeremy Kyle show is no longer, but there are others we broadcast here that revel in the pain and discomfort of others.

Leah Panapa is host of Magic Nights.