It is reported that Channel 5 has stopped streaming an episode of 'Celebrities: What Happened to Your Face' following complaints from a reality television star over its impact on her mental health, and general inappropriate nature.

The star complained that the show dissected her physical appearance, commented on her pictured weight changes, and broadcast abusive messages the star had received about her appearance. She understandably complained that the overall effect of the show was detrimental to her mental health, and would lead to further abuse online. A friend of the star encouraged members of the public to report the matter to OFCOM, and the incident highlights recent OFCOM rule changes regarding the mental health of programme participants that are worth noting.

OFCOM changes

The changes came into effect on 5 April 2021, and OFCOM say they are the result of a rise in complaints “about the mental health and wellbeing of programme participants, reflecting society’s growing openness and concern about these issues”.

Section 7 (Fairness) has been amended to ensure that programme participants:

“be informed about potential risks arising from their participation in the programme which may affect their welfare […].”

And a new “practice to be followed” is added:

“Broadcasters should take due care over the welfare of a contributor who might be at risk of significant harm as a result of taking part in a programme […].”

Examples are then given as to when due care should be given, such as where:

  • The participant is considered a vulnerable person;
  • The participant is not used to being in the public eye; 
  • The programme is likely to attract a high level of press, media and social media interest; 
  • The programme requires them to discuss, reveal, or engage with sensitive, life changing or private aspects of their lives.

As OFCOM note, public concern over mental health welfare has increased substantially in recent years, and OFCOM has recognised that care should be taken by broadcasters who create content that could have unintended, but serious, consequences for the mental health of those featured.

BBC reporting can be found here 

OFCOM explanatory notes can be found here