AN INQUIRY into British reality TV programmes was launched by MPs yesterday — as ITV said it was axing The Jeremy Kyle Show following the suspected suicide of one of its guests.
Damian Collins, head of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, said ITV made the ‘right decision’ but ‘it should not be the end of the matter’.
Steve Dymond, 63, died last week after he was left ‘distraught’ at being accused of cheating on his partner and then failing a lie detector test during filming of an episode of the show hosted by Jeremy Kyle that has not been broadcast.
Last night, Kyle told The Sun: ‘Myself and the production team I have worked with for the last 14 years are all utterly devastated by the recent events.’
ITV also faces growing calls to pull the plug on Love Island, following the suicides of contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26, in the past year. Mr Collins said: ‘There needs to be an independent review of the duty of care TV companies have to participants in reality TV shows.
‘Programmes like The Jeremy Kyle Show risk 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.’
ITV and Ofcom are to investigate the Kyle episode. The regulator said: ‘It’s vital people taking part in reality and factual shows are properly looked after. We’re examining whether more can be done to safeguard the welfare of those people, similar to the duty of care we have in the Broadcasting Code to protect under 18s.’
Babette Lucas-Marriott, who was in the studio audience during filming of Mr Dymond’s segment, told BBC News: ‘He was crying from the very beginning and he was so convinced he would pass the test and that everything would be fine.
‘Jeremy said he’d failed the test and he collapsed to the ground, he absolutely couldn’t believe what he’d heard. He was begging his fiancée for forgiveness. It was clear that he’d just lost his entire life there.’
ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said it hoped to work with Kyle in the future. She added: ‘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.’
Staff were said to be in ‘floods of tears’ at the show’s Salford office after it was pulled, while ITV’s shares have fallen more than six per cent since the show was suspended on Monday.
Among those calling for Love Island to be scrapped was former reality TV contestant Nicola McLean. She told Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine Kyle was being ‘victimised’. She added: ‘Love Island is coming on very soon, the show that’s making the most money for ITV brand. I think this is a mask so we don’t have to ban Love Island.’
But ex-EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook defended Kyle and his team, including psychotherapist Graham Stainer, and said she ‘wouldn’t be alive’ without the show’s help.
A coroner ruled last month former Love Island contestant Ms Gradon took her own life, while an inquest into Mr Thalassitis’s death is due to be held days before the new series of the show is broadcast. Ms Gradon’s boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, 25, found her body and killed himself 20 days later, another inquest ruled.
Mr Dymond’s body was found at his home in Portsmouth on May 9. An inquest will be held in due course.
ITV refused to comment on calls for Love Island to be cancelled but producers have said there was a ‘continuous and ongoing process’ of care for contestants.