ITV chief: I wouldn't say no if my children wanted to go on Love Island

Carolyn McCall’s comment comes during questioning by MPs about treatment of participants on reality TV shows

ITV’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, has said she would be comfortable with her children appearing on Love Island, while being questioned by MPs angered by her responses to questions about the treatment of participants on the broadcaster’s reality TV shows.

Julian Knight, the chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee of MPs, raised the issue of the treatment of participants on the now-axed Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island.

Last year, ITV cancelled the Jeremy Kyle Show after 14 years after the death of a guest, Steve Dymond, following the result of a lie detector test on the show supposedly showing he was cheating on his fiancee. Two former Love Island contestants, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, have also died.

Knight, who referred to the more than 3,000 episodes of the Jeremy Kyle show as “human bear-baiting” and a “human freak show”, confronted McCall about why ITV kept the programme running for as long as it did.

“It was a highly regulated show, it was a conflict-resolution show, it was not to everyone’s tastes, it polarised opinion,” she said. “It may surprise you to know that I actually got hundreds of emails complaining about stopping the show because they thought it was their own outlet of being able to listen and understand problems that were in their own lives. You may not empathise with that in any way.”

Knight rounded on McCall for failing to condemn the show. “My jaw is dropping at the lack of contrition here from ITV and from yourself as chief executive.”

McCall said the show attracted an audience of 1 million a day for 15 years and abided by the UK broadcasting code while admitting “it was not always comfortable to view, yet people viewed it”.

“The Roman Coliseum held 55,000, it doesn’t mean because it was popular it was right,” said Knight. “I’m just surprised you can’t see that perhaps that was the wrong step and perhaps ITV should have ended it earlier, and perhaps we shouldn’t see its like on TV again.”

McCall said: “I can’t talk for my predecessors, I can simply say that we stopped the Jeremy Kyle Show not because it had done anything out of regulation. It had not been criticised in the way that you (just) criticised it over that 15 years. I think a lot has changed; I think if you look at the show today you wonder how it could have been on for so long. We have said that we will not be doing a show like the Jeremy Kyle Show again, we have been very clear about that, I have been very clear about that.”

McCall said ITV had created a much more stringent duty of care plan for participants in shows such as Love Island, which went well beyond regulator Ofcom’s code, including tougher pre-screening of applicants, training on the risks of being in the public eye and a “huge focus” on continuing aftercare when a show finished.

MP Kevin Brennan said the measures sounded like how you might cater for someone who has experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, and asked McCall if she would allow her own children appear on Love Island.

“We are trying to prevent people coming back in to the world and not adapting back to it because their lives have changed a bit because of experiences they have had,” she said. You asked about my children, if they were completely apprised of it. as long as they went in completely apprised, completely with their eyes open, I wouldn’t say no.”


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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