A special ethics committee established by the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) has leveled harsh criticism at Israeli reality television shows, branding them as "human experiments" and calling for rigid rules to ensure the physical and mental well-being of the shows' contestants.
The committee was established after a Yedioth Ahronoth exposé uncovered allegations that contestants on the Israeli "Big Brother" were given psychiatric drugs. The contestants claimed they didn't know what they were taking and were pressured to consume the meds. They were also encouraged to engage in behaviors that would spike the show's ratings.
Following the publication of the article, Menasha Samira, then CEO of the Second Authority for Television and Radio, turned to the ethics bureau of the IMA, which established a reality TV ethics commission consisting of top physicians, a psychiatrist and a legal expert.
The committee's report claims that contestants on reality TV are found under constant pressure, and are deprived of important information in order to maintain the element of surprise. Therefore, their contracts don't meet the ethical requirements for informed consent.
The committee has drafted a set of rules aimed at ensuring the well-being of contestants, which includes the following:
- During the pre-season auditions, the producers must verify that the contestants are physically and psychologically capable of dealing with hardships.
- The production staff must constantly monitor the contestants' medical state.
- The production company should be responsible for the contestants' well-being for a reasonable time period after the show ends; the company should finance post-season medical treatments, if needed.
- The physician monitoring the show should be independent, and his first priority should be the contestants' health, not the ratings.
Israeli Medical Association Chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman has lauded the committee's conclusions.
"The ever-changing world spawns new threats to people's health, which must be dealt with," he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ilan Rabinovitch, who was in charge of dispersing psychiatric pills to Big Brother contestants during the show's second season, has been let off the hook when the Health Ministry decided against setting up a committee to look into his own alleged misconduct.
Yaron Kelner contributed to this report