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Life on TV, Sunday November 12 2000

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I watched the Panorama on Sunday concerning the effects that the BIG Brother programme had on Melanie and Nick. I do sympathise with them to a certain extent however, they had the choice to leave the house at any time they wanted to. Melanie mentioned that the tension at times was too much, again she could have walked. And they chose to go on the programme and be in that situation, granted they may not have been informed on everything, however they CHOSE to go on the programme and now want sympathy to a certain extent which I think in most cases, they will not get.
Rebekah Musuku

I enjoyed the programme although for a while I was afraid that I was watching an extended advertisement for Big Brother. However I would have liked to have seen some comment upon the routine faking of those other alleged 'Reality TV' programmes - docu-soaps. As the BBC appeared for a while to be frighteningly obsessed with such programmes I suppose it was to be expected that their contrivance would not be revealed on this episode of Panorama.
Andy Rogers

Excellent programme on Reality TV, well-written and well-presented by Mariella Frostrup. I trust the quality of the programme will silence the usual misogynistic suspects who hooted at the idea of her presenting a serious documentary - but sadly I doubt it!
Dougie Milton

What a horrific prospect your programme portrayed. I accept I am in the majority as I have never watched Jerry Springer after my first glimpse that filled me with dismay. The publicity for Big Brother allowed me to avoid that sad excuse for entertainment. Does this allow the BBC to stand on the moral high ground, not after the Weakest Link - another foray in the realms of humiliation under the pretence of a game show. What programme makers fail to see is the growing numbers of people not entertained by broadcast TV. I have two televisions, but I also have two DVD players and increasingly my TV entertainment comes from the local DVD store or When I do watch television it is usually the BBC but even here this has dropped to around 4 hours a week. The future? Digital Jerry Springer and Ann Robinson, not in my house. Great Panorama programme but, increasingly, shame about the rest. One last point when I stop watching all together will I still pay my licence to the BBC or leave it to the morons who are hooked on humiliation to pay an increasing share.
Paul Bennett

A very important programme in a time slot that could have been designed to minimise its impact. There's been plenty of discussion of TV dumbing down but this programme demonstrated something much more dangerous. These programmes are bad in the moral sense. The most frightening thing about the programme was the absence of any sense of responsibility on the part of those who made them. 'It's legal so it must be OK.' Lots of people just 'doing their job' and washing their hands of the consequences for weaker, more vulnerable and downright misled others. It was especially worrying to hear the controller of the BBC take as passive and disingenuous a position as any.
Isabel Miles

Surely the bottom line is that Companies and individuals like those that operate the 'Jerry Springer' show (and Jerry Springer himself) are only interested in making money. They make no contribution to the welfare of their fellow man. They exploit people and humiliate them for money...... can you go any lower than that? When they have made their money, do you suppose they sit back in the sun and enjoy it? No they will not, because over time, as they age, they will inevitably reflect that they have only done harm in this world, and they have caused other people to suffer only to make money. They will eventually age and die and no one will care about them except to remember that they caused suffering. They will only be remembered as parasites on the wider community.
Chris Danell

I didn't find the programme biased at all. It proved that Jerry Springer was exploitational and couldn't give a damn about the pathetic people on his show. I don't think I could talk to anyone who watched his show (or broadcast it). Big Brother was much less exploitational, but is mindless trash and sign of worse to come. The Director's attitudes proved that the drive for viewing figures will lead to much more similar garbage as there is amazingly a market for it. I thought Panorama proved 'reality TV' is not good for society. Censorship seems unlikely in this day and age, with the internet and all, so it's you people who watch this stuff that are the problem. There is plenty of good stuff on TV. Go and watch David Attenborough's State Of The Plant series later this week, and put some energy into world saving issues, rather than wasting time watching world destroying programmes such as those featured on Panorama.
Andy Brown

The Panorama programme was excellent. But I would have liked it to examine more closely why people choose to appear on programmes such as the "Jerry Springer Show" in the first place. Surely they must realise that it's highly likely that something unpleasant will happen to them? The guests on the show don't get paid (with exception of expenses), so is it simply that they crave their 15 minutes of fame? Secondly, it's interesting to look at how some individuals have played the TV companies at their own game. The BBC famously came unstuck when a tabloid newspaper revealed that it had used fake guests on the "Vanessa" show and I'm sure that was just the tip of the iceberg. With Reality TV you sometimes find yourself wondering who is exploiting who? Finally, I took the comments from the producer of the "Jerry Springer Show" regarding broadcasting an execution to be ironic. I think some crafty editing may have caused some to believe he was being serious.
Stephano Hill

The usual mistake was made right at the top of this programme when Mariella said that Big Brother had the nation gripped. It did not! It never achieved higher viewing figures than Emmerdale. This is because BB was staged during August, when most Brits take their holidays, and was on the minority-viewing Channel Four. I was appalled by the coverage given to BB by BBC news programmes, radio and TV.

BB merely proved how boring and conforming most 20-somethings are

Laura Marcus, Leek
It was treated as news when it was nothing of the sort. Excellent marketing by the makers of BB but crass for the publicly-funded BBC to pander to it. And I agree with much of what's been said here elsewhere: this Panorama added nothing to the debate that we don't already know. In fact the best comment about the whole sick scenario came from Will Self in the Independent when he wondered why the participants of BB didn't smash all the cameras save one and broadcast something subversive. BB merely proved how boring and conforming most 20-somethings are. And THAT frightens me a lot more than reality television.
Laura Marcus
Leek, Staffs.

My whole household gathered excitedly around in the lounge for every edition of Big Brother during the summer. And until 'the Sun' got involved, it was great! Flying helicopters over the fence and the "Kick out Nick" campaign was not part of the original Endemol game plan. Melanie cannot complain about how she came over to the audience. Other members of the household (Caroline and Anna for instance) had ample opportunity to screw-up but the public could see they were genuinely nicer people than her. The truth hurts and all that. What people have been saying about running a second series - I'm currently living in Germany where RTL are running the second series of German Big Brother, and yes, there are people in the house who are only there to become a star, but they are very obvious to spot and it is just as riveting. To my mind, the basic theme of the show has always been for the viewing audience to judge the participants characters and see how they change from being in such close proximity to people they might otherwise never come across. Take away the hype, and the format remains both thought-provoking and entertaining.
Will Wohlman
Miltenberg, Germany

After watching Panorama, I wept. What kind of world is this where a producer publicly admits that he would execute a human being on camera if it increased ratings!? May God have mercy on us all.
Loenen, Netherlands

I thought that the programme was excellently made and at the same time very disturbing. An obvious question that I have is - Should the govt and broadcasting authorities implement tighter legislation around the making and presentation of reality/voyeurism television style programmes. Shouldn't we learn from mistakes that have been made in the USA, where there have been some disastrous consequences. Many thanks again for a great programme.
Mark Kelly

Why should Mel be upset? Surely they all knew what they were letting themselves in for and it doesn't seem to have done Nick any harm!!
Rohan Dunlop

Commercial television has no other interest than pandering to the worst instincts in people

Tony Shelley, Leicester
I liked the programme very much. If anything it showed something I've thought for many years. That is that commercial television has no other interest than pandering to the worst instincts in people. Should the BBC follow this path - on any of its stations, it will be the first of many deathnails in its coffin. Also, despite comments in the press recently, Mariella Frostrup did an excellent job in the presentation of a truly awful subject.
Tony Shelley

I found the programme both illuminating and thought provoking. My own view is that these burgeoning programmes are merely a reflection of the increasing moribund state of our society. I remember back in the late sixties a tv play called 'The year of the Sex Olympics'. Whilst the theme was of governmental control it predated the rise in offering yet more sex and violence to sate the dulled palates of a chair bound society. I would like to know what our moral and ethical guardians of the Church are doing about this? And what measures are being taken by our TV watchdogs??
Colin Jarvis
Ash, Surrey

At last, a programme devoted to examining the nature of reality TV in it's true colours. I thought I was the only one who considered this type of TV to be uneducational, cheap and boring. In this day and age TV bosses must realise that there is no greater influence on society than TV itself. I am a firm believer that the majority of people are very sheep like and trends/fashions/habits are established by watching TV regularly. In other words TV does set the standards, whereas it claims to reflect the standards of society. I am not a prude or someone who believes in censorship, however I do get concerned for the future of our society when I watch these mindless programmes which deal with sensationalism in it's lowest form - the humiliation of uneducated people for huge profit!! I am a strong believer in actions and not words, to be a leader by example is the best way to lead and therefore if we want a better future for our kids then TV has a responsibility to lead by example. TV has a duty to the viewers to be truthful - if TV lies then expect society to repeat the lies!!
Kevin Brown

Don't you think it is hypocritical of people on these 'Reality T.V. programmes' to say they have been 'exploited' when they clearly knew the likely outcome, and have mostly revelled in their fame since?
Martin Priddey

Miss Hill said she was misrepresented, but not how this was done. Mr Bateman said it was only a Game Show, but none of the participants seemed interested in winning the prize money. Both these people said or did things during Big Brother that did not reflect well on them, but neither seems to want to accept the consequences, rather blame the Producers for showing them in a bad light. I would have liked to know why the ten contestants applied for the show? How many of them have gone back to their original jobs? If any of them admit they wanted to be famous? How many of the others thought they were manipulated? The words sour grapes come to mind.
David Bolger

I found Melanie and Nick's comments rather difficult to understand - a lot of the former BB housemates came out and said that the show was an accurate representation of what went on inside the house albeit compressed.

People often wince when they see or hear themselves on tape so I am not surprised Mel is taken aback by what she saw

Jason Thomas Williams, London
We all have our own ideas about how we look, behave and interact with others and using video footage to show people how they behave is an established tool in the Career development profession. In this case it was for a prolonged length of time and with the nation watching. People often wince when they see or hear themselves on tape so I am not surprised Mel is taken aback by what she saw. But how could the show of manipulated people so if all the coverage was on the Internet 24 hours a day? Panorama claimed that the show made Nick into the most evil person in Britain and then cut to a copy of the Sun newspaper - it was papers like the Sun who did that not BB who repeatedly tried to dissuade him. In the end it was his housemates who confronted him not the producers.
Jason Thomas Williams

I run a campaign group, the UK Men's Movement, and I have been the subject of a couple of documentaries and have also contributed to others. I have been treated both fairly and disgracefully by various producers. My opinion of the people in the industry is, in general, very dismissive, and I hold most of them in contempt. I think that more than anything else, television has corrupted and debauched the nation's morals. I read the considerable criticisms of Panorama's decision to do the programme fronted by Mariella Frostrup on voyeuristic and nasty TV, but reserved my opinion, and decided to view it. The decision to screen this programme has in no way detracted from the gravitas and reputation of Panorama, quite the reverse. The cruelty, shallowness of these programmes, and their ability to damage the collective morality of society, and the lives of individuals, is an important issue, that should be raised. The vanity, cupidity and ruthless ambition of many in tv needs to be exposed. Panorama rightly pointed out that these "shows" would not have seen the light of day some years back. One regret is that the programme did not elaborate greatly on the question, "do they merely supply the market, or do they create the market?". My view is the latter, but even if the former obtained, it is analogous with dealing drugs - either ways up, it should just not be done. It also failed to make the point of public standards - and how tv lowers them, i.e., when a taboo is broken once, it's easier to break it twice. Most taboos in any society exist because they have been found to be beneficial in some way to that society. Even though people can espouse one thing, and hypocritically do another, the very fact that a public standard is in place, means that the general run of humanity aim to hit it. Lower the point of aim for the public standard, and the private one hits lower still. One nagging doubt remains - was this programme a piece of market research for the Beeb, and is the invitation to comment a part of that market research? In other words, check the level of complaint to see if you can safely dumb down? I hope not, the BBC needs to raise it's standards, not lower them, to regain the reputation it previously enjoyed world-wide as a public-service broadcaster.
George McAulay

I thought the programme was very interesting but one-sided. There is also the angle that 'reality tv', particularly talkshows, actually help people who would not have known how they could take control of their life if they hadn't have aired their confessions to millions. And Jerry Springer was deemed the face of the reality tv devil even though he's just a presenter. Were you not conscious that as a presenter yourself, the questioning was a little harsh?
Ben Godfrey

I am not writing to ask a question so much as to express my sympathy to Melanie of the Big Brother house. I am not sure if she will receive this message but I would like to say to Melanie that as difficult as it is she needs to remove herself from all of the hype surrounding her. It was obvious that once Nick Bateman had left another person had to be the 'bad one' and having once been the favourite to win this was a good media twist. With regards to the people booing her when she left the house it has to be kept in some kind of perspective that the type of people to actually turn up at an affair like that and to then act abusively, really does refer to quite a small section of society. If you have papers such as 'The Sun' behind a mission like this considering their wide readership it is not really too surprising. I couldn't believe the unfairness and 'witchhunt' approach to the whole matter. I would also like to say how pleased I am that the BBC is making a concerted effort to keep a balance between ratings wars and intelligent television. I recently returned from Australia where I was absolutely shocked at the state of television there and found it very refreshing to come home. But please watch some of those evening dramas slowly turning into ITV efforts!
Lorna Kitney

First of all - Well Done, Mariella! Whoever said she isn't the right sort of presenter for Panorama was talking out of their backside. I'd watch it far more if there were younger and more approachable people like her fronting it. It was certainly 'her' kind of subject and, therefore, an appropriate one for her to cover. Frankly, if the Beeb had had one of their usual greying, boring old farty chaps as a presenter, I wouldn't have believed a word he said because I would have assumed he'd never watched it and was 'out of touch'. However, I think the Panorama programme was a tad unbalanced.

BB certainly condensed (on occasion) various sessions of Mel flirting with the boys, but I reckon the TV shows were a true reflection of what happened

Jane Mack, Newbury
I was addicted to Big Brother on the Internet, almost from the outset (I missed the first five days or so). I didn't just watch the TV highlights - I actually watched it live on the Internet every night until they went to bed - or listened in to what was going on if I was working on something. I even saw the night before the showdown when Craig was quizzing people privately about what had been going on - until BB hit the panic button and switched off the feed at 4am. For television programmes, BB certainly condensed (on occasion) various sessions of Mel flirting with the boys, but I reckon the TV shows WERE a true reflection of what happened. She just doesn't like seeing it! In fact, there was nothing wrong with how she handled things - it's just the Nation didn't approve - so she's trying to find a scapegoat. Same goes for Nick and his behaviour. I note that none of the other eight participants in BB took part in the Panorama programme! Do they feel they were manipulated and unfairly portrayed by BB? Mel and Nick are both being disingenuous because they have reason to be - they simply didn't come out of it too well in the public eye. I admit I don't like the way the Americans do things. But, as Jerry Springer pointed out, he's had 20,000 people on his show and one person has possibly died (in part) because of it. Just the one. And that was three months after the show. Who knows what went on in between? Was it really the fault of the TV show? The same goes for the Jenny Jones show. I don't understand why a guy would find it so incredibly humiliating to discover that another guy fancied him, that he had to go and shoot him three days later. Why kill someone just because he admits he likes you on TV? The father of the 'shooter', said his son rang him after the show - weeping with shame about the fact that his admirer was a man. It just made me think that, if the father had been less prejudiced against homosexuals while his son was growing up, it wouldn't have resulted in such tragedy. Dad is probably blaming the TV show because he doesn't want to blame himself. It would have been good if Mariella had put that question to him! Considering how many people die on the roads every day - should we ban cars? Are we supposed to ban TV programmes like BB and Castaway just IN CASE the occasional oddball goes off the rails? No! Reality TV is simply too fascinating, in the same way that driving a car is a necessity.
Jane Mack

I was very impressed with this last night's Panorama as it covered an issue that has long been ignored by the public. I am also sure that this issue appealed to many more viewers than past topics you have examined.
Shona Macleod

Two points:
1. I noticed BBC News fall into the category of dramatising from about 1987 to 1994 EVERY news programme had questions starting 'How do you feel'. So, then BBC, you don't want to know about news, you want to know about feelings, huh? I'm pleased that it's rarely seen nowadays. But it's powerful TV.
2. In science ANY live experiments (particular with humans) have to go through an Ethics Committee. For example, I am looking at negotiation and have suggested that subjects could be paid slightly different amounts (about 4 different) depending on which outcome they achieve. No! That will put them under pressure! It seems that this doesn't apply to Jerry Springer - why not? One could have a similar committee.
Peter Murray-Jones

I am a company director, a senior member of the lay judiciary and have three university degrees. I watched and enjoyed Panorama last night for the first time in years. Thank you. My question relates to 'dumbing down'. Having taken to watching Panorama, am I assumed to be dumb because I didn't watch before, or am I dumb for having started to watch now? Being dumb, obviously, I am having some difficulty in working it out.
Peter Hunter

I felt that last night's programme was incredibly one-sided and short-sighted. I don't think anyone could disagree that Jerry Springer's programmes are anything less than exploitative and damaging to those who appear but to bunch it together with Endemol's Big Brother was clumsy and offensive to those people who enjoyed watching it. Members of the public watched Big Brother because it was social interaction exposed not sex or violence. Indeed the British version has stood out from the foreign editions for this very reason. It was fascinating to see people from different backgrounds with different world views try to rub along together in an abnormally intense and claustrophobic environment.

Not everyone watching reality TV wants to progress to seeing a live execution

Andy Priestner, Abingdon
I felt that Panorama was also mistaken in ignoring those contestants who clearly had enjoyed the programme, in fact the documentary only invited comments from the two players who's characters were thrown up in sharp and sometimes unfortunate relief by the ever present cameras. They also neglected to mention that they could at any time request a session with a counsellor. Nor was it made clear that these people 'really' wanted to be on the show, having to fill in 20 page application forms and go through a torturous and deliberately off-putting selection process. These people knew what they were getting into. The conclusion of last night's Panorama was also depressingly obvious and predictable. Not everyone watching reality TV wants to progress to seeing a live execution. Most of us are quite happy 'to watch the grass grow'. Oh and a word of advice for Miss Hill - if she doesn't want people to think she's anything more than a 'sexy little babe' then I think she should pack less skimpy leopard skin bikinis when she next willingly takes part in a reality TV gameshow.
Andy Priestner
Abingdon, Oxon.

Big brother was good to begin with and became very addicitive. But having another one will just be a wast of time, effort and money. The people to go on it next, will know what to expect and will have it all planned out what they are going to do. Which is not how it should be and will ruin it for the viewers as it will be very easy to predict.
Samantha Hoskyn

It is very important to show how banal and mawkish the chat shows have become.They are unmanaged and unmanageable and inflict brain damage on their mindless audiences.
Peter Walsh

I commend Ms. Frostrup in her efforts to bring the issue of what television should or should not bring forth to a viewing audience. As a result of what little there is to learn with the majority of television, I made the decision to stop watching it habitually six years ago. For some, it serves as a medium of entertainment which is inexpensive, but for too many too much of the time, it is a tool of mind control to an extent. For any avid viewer who would beg to differ that the television medium is not manipulative, is very much mistaken, in my opinion. It is also sadly noted that the majority of people would opt to peruse a programme based on sex and violence and gossip as opposed to a take on unconditional compassion. At any rate, I do like to view shows occasionally that discuss important topics such as the one your show selected, which would maybe arouse a viewing audience to perhaps "think," which is becoming something popular not to do anymore in our day and age.
C.J. Coombs

Tonight's Panorama was very thought provoking. I would just like to say that the Bible says these things are bound to happen (interest in more and more perversity) because we have chosen to "exchange the truth of God for a lie" - Romans Chapter 1, verse 25. Most of this first chapter of Romans talks about what happens when we ignore God. God leaves us to our own devices, and verse 28 of Romans Chapter 1, we read, sadly, that God gives such over to a depraved mind. May God have mercy on us as a nation!
Stephen Worth

The BBC is itself one of the main "offenders" with the dreadful Castaway 2000

Colin Carr, Wolverhampton
I was impressed with Frostrup's presentation and the issue is an important one. But let us not forget that the BBC is itself one of the main "offenders" with the dreadful Castaway 2000. However, the final quotation from Springer's producer proved once and for all that Springer and his show are the lowest common denominators that set the low standard. He said that there are no boundaries and he would show a live execution live on TV if he could get away with it. Just how low are things going to get?
Colin Carr

I thought that Big Brother was addictive TV and part of that was that both I, as a viewer, and the contestants didn't know how to behave or quite what to expect. After all it had never been done here in the UK before. However, I think that a second Big Brother will be a mistake...people WILL know how to "play" the game now and will inevitably develop more viewer friendly strategies than Nasty Nick had. It's that old thing of "Yep this works - let's milk it until it's dry".... We shall see how the next run goes
Penny Beevers
Halifax, West Yorks

Why interview the head of BBC1 when she didn't even know you were doing this show? It looked like you'd included her at her request to let people know who she is, what she does and to make her look less stupid for not knowing you were presenting the show. I have to say this series of Panorama is looking great and I think you should do a few more. You handled Jerry very well!
Tom Allen

The guy at the end said it all when he admitted that he would show an execution on TV. I agree with the Lawyers analogy that we are back to the Lions and the Christians scenario. On this remembrance day it is disappointing to see how little some people have learned. It is about censorship, morals, law, good and evil, whatever you want to call it. Do you hand a monkey a gun and film it shooting it's brains out? Or do you show how you can help to breed a whole colony of an endangered species? "God bless America" No really please do. They need your help!
Damon Gill

How do you have the brass neck to comment on falling standards in TV and then employ Mariella Frostrup. Are there no real journalists left?
Garfield Braithwaite

Brilliant programme. Many of the comments made hit home with me. I have taken part in a "docu soap" / "fly on the wall" / "real life drama" for the past 6 years. The Village, although a Meridian TV programme, is shown by the BBC and is exported to Australia and other places. Apart from being recognised in the street, I have felt no impact at all from appearing in 90+ episodes of The Village as myself. I have felt manipulated by the producers at times, but refuse to do or say anything that I would not do so normally. That's my choice, and at the end of the day I control what I say or do. However the digital editing almost rewrites some situations over which I have no control what so ever. So, despite being screened at 7.30pm on a Thursday evening just before Chris Tarrant's Millionaire show (In Meridian TV area), could you explain why the general media seem to have bypassed Meridian TV's The Village, (despite being the longest running docu-soap) or is it that our televised lives down in Bentley is so boring.... Or should I be glad that we receive neither fame or fortune from opening the past 6 years of our lives to the cameras.
Les (and Simmi) Player

Horrified by some aspects of tonight's programme.

The BBC should think long and hard before they think of competing against the producers of these kinds of shows

Philip Gould, Wareham
Chiefly the Exec producer of Jerry Springer's show who stated baldly that he would happily execute a human being live on TV if allowed. Anyone with views like that should be immediately disbarred from holding any position in TV, Radio, Newspapers,etc., where they have an influence on the public. That man is a disgrace, and the BBC should think long and hard before they think of competing against the producers of these kinds of shows, run by people like that, using public money.
Philip Gould
Wareham, Dorset

Please do not go down the "big brother" nor the sex and violence route. Stay decent. From you we expect a wholesome diet, that is to say programmes which underline and uphold the basic human dignity, the caring and sharing in society and the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and justice.
Linde Kaiser

Your programme merely increased my worries about the way TV is going. I was pleased to hear the comments of your 'Boss' lady - sorry I can't remember her name - at least there seems to be a shred of integrity left in the BBC. I have to admit that I watched Big Brother for five minutes before I decided it wasn't for me - I found it particularly worrying to see the outcome of the programme splashed all over The Times - what is our country coming to? - I hope there were other people around who didn't know what they were talking about. Unfortunately, all the trash that goes on the air in America eventually finds its way over here. But not to worry, I still have the Off switch!!!
Judith Evans
Newport, South Wales

I really have one comment - why have I just watched a programme headed by Mariella Frostrup (epitomy of female sexuality - or so I am told), containing snippets of death, trailer park cam shots and misery, supported by continued reference to more Real TV programmes than I knew existed. I have always been a fan of serious documentaries and investigative TV not least because it too provides me with an insight to human nature and the self-destructive nature of us all. What really is the difference between Jerry Springer and tonight's Panorama? Mariella Frostrup being far more attractive? Would the producers of Panorama have ran this programme if it were not for the assurity of an audience of people who like myself enjoy the odd view of the weird and wonderful phenomenon known as human nature?
Elaine Stanners

Reality TV is only a problem for the middle-classes who want to keep the ugly life of the working class off the screens. Rather than seeing this as a negative thing, thinking more deeply about reality tv would allow us to consider that the shift away from keeping the poor out of sight is a positive thing - in that it isn't controlled by experts or self-appointed moral guardians. As manipulative as Panorama suggests that reality TV, it never subjected it's own production to the same examination - didn't the BBC play the rating's game by taking on shock TV?
Rob Watson

I think that tonight's Panorama raised some good points about TV viewing and its future. BBC should stick to what it is good at: documentaries, science programmes, rather than try and imitate programmes such as Big Brother and Jerry Springer. It is a shame that TV is taking the path that is talking in terms of "in your face TV" which is more interested in ratings than in quality programmes. There is no need to follow the path of Americans which they would organise/produce a murder on a show just for materialistic gain. BBC - Keep up the good work.
Shaban Shala
New Barnet, Herts.

Which clips of Parkinson, Wogan and even Harty are shown the most? Is it not the ones featuring violence, nudity, drunkenness or drug using guests?
Ray Pantenello

I feel the comments on Big Brother and Castaway were out of line as the people on them agreed to take part therefore knew what they were letting themselves in for

Kath Buckley, London
Although there were some valid comments on programmes such as Springer - I feel the comments on Big Brother and Castaway were out of line as the people on them agreed to take part therefore knew what they were letting themselves in for. I'm also a bit annoyed by how the only 2 out 11 contestants on Big Brother to complain were the ones no one liked - especially since "Nasty" Nick Bateman has in fact milked the persona shown of him on the programme since. I feel their comments reflect more on them as people than on Big Brother's part. I also resent the way the internet was demonised as being the source of "reality" TV and of being responsible for debasing standards. Extreme material such as bestiality has always been available in some form or another to people. I don't feel the internet has increased demand for such material more than any other medium. It is interesting that any coverage of the internet is always negative - and it creates a false impression of the internet as a forum of filth and information on how to make bombs.
Kath Buckley

When you point a camera at a group of people, they do not behave in the same way as they would if they were not being filmed. So-called Reality TV or 'fly on the wall' documentary is non existent unless the subject/s are unaware of the camera. Why this important point is never raised when discussing the ethics of this genre is baffling. Jerry Springer's 'Trailer trash' subjects are quite obviously acting up for the cameras. The presence of TV causes them to say and do things which would not occur otherwise. Such is the reverence for the god-like status of TV in the US. So much for Springer's justification that he's merely documenting their 'freedom of choice' to be on air. That's like handing a starving man a hamburger and blaming him if he later contracts CJD.

My god!! I did not notice the dramatic change in television until I started zapping through old television shows in the programme & then viewing more modern programmes. Can I just say I was physically shocked at the jump in taste & decency & I'm only 17. I can very easily see the fact that there will be public executions on TV as well as other things I do not wish to go into. Well I have decided, vote with your remotes, in my parent's front room we have sky digital which gives us 800 channels, so I say either switch off your sets or watch channels like UK Gold or Discovery. Come on people I definitely know that when I have kids in the future I don't want them to switch on the tv & see death, bestiality, blood sports, paedophilia, etc. This is what we will see if we keep watching shows like Jerry Springer, so people control the future with your remotes, please only watch tasteful programmes or SWITCH OFF THE TELEVISION SET!!! I know what I am talking about, I am 1 of the teenagers whose parents saw television as "the babysitter". I say it's time we kill the babysitter
Sam Ellis

Fascinating and repulsive view of market dominated mass media, and appalling evidence of the sophisticated cretinism of our world. But the question arises as to the inevitable and glib appeal to the need to supply audience demand. What I ask is this, if we in the free world live in the most advanced and most progressive condition civilisation has yet achieved, then why do we demand to be fed on such debasing garbage? Why not devote a programme examining, not the rationale behind supply, but the curious need, (given mass education etc) for such low level cultural content? In the UK we have ten years free education, and millions read newspapers with a reading age of eleven. Do a programme about that.
Robert Giddings

What a disappointing, one-sided attempt to tackle something which could if handled properly have been an interesting and informative programme. Trying to portray people like 'Big Brother Mel' and 'Castaway Ron' as victims was a no-hoper from the start. If people are so utterly ignorant and naive that they go on such shows without realising that they are part of something which will be edited for entertainment purposes, then they deserve everything they get. Strangely I seem to recall seeing Mel's picture on the front cover of a magazine while shopping today. I wonder how much she profited from that 'exclusive' interview.

I feel the net result is that the only trash I saw on TV tonight was the programme itself

Richard, London
Surely in choosing short sound-bite type comments from those being interviewed, such as the Springer Producer's comment about airing TV executions, makes Panorama guilty of exactly the same editing for dramatic effect as it accuses many so called reality-TV shows of doing. Surely it would have been far less interesting and titillating had we watched the other dozen questions he had probably answered in a much less 'scandalous' manner. Frankly I feel the net result is that the only trash I saw on TV tonight was the programme itself. Mariella Frostrup should stick to reviewing films and attending society parties rather than appointing herself as the moral guardian of the country's virtues.

....appealing to their most basic instincts and the thought fills me with dread for humankind if this is the future of TV and 'entertainment'. Well Done Mariella for a well presented programme.
Bina Sterling

I had to laugh at the suggestion made in tonight's Panorama that the excellent Castaway 2000 is downmarket! Who are you trying to kid? It is Panorama itself that provides the most convincing evidence of the BBC going downmarket. Tonight's programme, 'Life On TV' also appeared to be entirely pointless. What exactly was the point you were trying to make? There was no revelation about the contemporary trend towards reality TV in the programme that isn't already self-evident and well-documented. Were you saying that Reality TV is a bad thing? Or that it isn't really 'real'? Which? Both? Neither? Both these issues about Reality TV are old news anyway, so perhaps you were trying to provide some fresh insight into the topic. If so, it escaped me I'm afraid. The current crop of producers don't seem to properly understand what the Panorama brand is supposed to be about. There's nothing wrong with trying to increase your audience figures, but I think you'll find most people will prefer to watch unashamedly populist factual programming that at least has something original or interesting to say, which going on tonight's evidence apparently Panorama does not. For the record, I think Mariella Frostrup did a reasonably good job in the circumstances.
Mike Parry
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

I heard on a number of occasions that certain producers/media people claimed that they knew what the public wanted. Interesting claim since I don't know anyone who has actually been asked by the so called experts as to what they would like to watch, including myself!!! Let's face it the glorious days of British television is slowly undergoing a slow demise thanks to advertisers and people concerned with the ratings. This is such a pity
Kevin Lallah

I was completely horrified by the comments of the producer of the Jerry Springer show, who stated that there was nothing that he would not show on TV - even an execution!!

TV has tremendous power in today's society, it would be great if it could be used in a positive creative way

Karen Willis, Morpeth
Who can protect our kids? His comments are incredibly irresponsible and evil. It gives us an insight into this man's mind, which is really scary, and he is the one with the power to put this on our screens. TV has tremendous power in today's society, it would be great if it could be used in a positive creative way.
Karen Willis

It was predictable that Mel (Big Brother) and Ron (Castaway 2000) would complain about how they had been portrayed. However, the Panorama programme did not comment on the fact that many of their fellow contestants/castaways viewed them as such. Perhaps these type of people want to be in control and resent the truth coming out on the less savoury aspects of their personality! I believe tabloid journalism is far more intrusive than reality TV.
Hugh Crook

I found the programme only heightened my discomfort of programmes like Big Brother. I recall seeing a play on BBC in the days of Black and White called 'The Year of the Sex Olympics' by Nigel Kneale. The subject matter was not far away from what was discussed on the programme. I hope that Science fiction doesn't become reality. I understand the BFI showed this play earlier this year. Maybe the BBC might consider re showing it.
Gerry Gillan
Ilford, Essex

Ms Frostrup presented an important programme very well. The BBC looked naive. The BBC 'made' Gilbert Harding a 'media star' in the '50s. Celebrity through TV & how people cope is nothing new. This is more to do with the change from a 4 channel system to a multi channel system. The BBC will eventually change now we have multi channel TV. TV should not try and be like the internet, else all 'standards' will certainly be lost. Do you agree?
Adam Roberts

Nothing in the programme really surprised me. The signature tune chosen for the programme is many years old and reflects the fact that many people have been worried about where the media is taking us for a long time. Misrepresentation of TV subjects seem to be 'De Rigeur', but is the tip of a huge iceberg, part of which was communicated in the programme.
Cav Edwards

After the upset caused in Colchester by "Soldier Town" I think that Producers should be directly accountable for the programmes they produce and should have to answer to someone else at least. Shouldn't there be some kind of governing body to whom complaints can be made such as the ITC with advertisements on TV?
Rusel Broadway
Colchester, Essex

Thanks Mariella for a well crafted report on ZooTV. It was an incisive and disturbing programme, especially the comments you drew out of the US producers. The level of their denial and callous opportunism was chilling. I hope the BBC1 controller's apologised to you by now.
Julia McKiernan

I remember when Panorama was a serious programme. Can the dumbing-down get any worse? As the late Ric Shepherd remarked 'audience figures have become the definition of quality television'. Saddened.

It makes my blood boil when I see these so called "reality" programmes. I never watched Big Brother and from what tonight's programme has specified, I am glad that I didn't.

I don't think that Springer would have been allowed in the country in the IBA's time

George Handley, Nottingham
Another programme that was featured tonight was the Jerry Springer Show. I know what ITV executives were onto when they decided to put this rubbish on in the afternoons; I would give my right arm back for Crown Court or Farmhouse Kitchen to come back. I don't think that Springer would have been allowed in the country in the IBA's time; it's the ITC who are too soft when regulating programmes. I blame the 1990 Broadcasting Act myself, and the split up of the IBA and the start of the ITC. The IBA used to preview programmes before they were transmitted, while the ITC only looks at programmes after they have been transmitted. It's also poor Mary Whitehouse who I also feel sorry for who has been campaigning for cleaner television programmes for over 35 years. Have we let poor Mrs Whitehouse done by letting these television companies get their own way all the time and show all these reality programmes all the time?
George Handley

Sorry Mel - the camera does not lie. What you saw was as you are, and what you told us is that you don't like those aspects of your character. Don't blame the programme.
Jack Chernin

Remember programmes that inspired us? Like Brideshead Revisited. Why should the British audience be put in the same category as the ignorant?
A. Yates

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