Last week Channel 5's reputation was on the line after a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother was revealed to have made anti-Semitic comments on social media. Playboy model and singer, Tila Tequila, was promptly kicked off the reality show after the offensive comments made on social media in 2013 surfaced. Nazi sympathising rants titled "Why I sympathise with Hitler Part 1: True History Unveiled" on her social media profile (which has since been removed) and a photo of her posing in front of Auschwitz whilst wearing a swastika and SS cap prompted a large number of complaints to Ofcom, the UK communications regulator. These comments have sparked outrage in the general public who are now asking just how Channel 5 could have missed them.
This isn't the first time Big Brother has instigated complaints – the programme made our No.1 on the list of most complained about TV shows in the UK. It highlights once again the need to conduct thorough checks on participants, especially in formats like reality television which, by its very nature, is unpredictable and risky for broadcasters. Thorough research into Tila Tequila's social media profiles and mentions of her in the news and on gossip websites would have revealed her controversial attitude to Hitler whom she referred to as "a brilliant artist" who was "ahead of his time" and added that she had "the same hopes and dreams as Hitler".
Channel 5, which is owned by American media giant Viacom, signed a deal this year to continue airing the Big Brother format. Both Channel 5 and the show's producers have insisted they had not been aware of these comments and said the matter was being investigating. Jonathan Sacerdoti, Director of Communications for The Campaign Against Antisemitism commented in the Independent that "It is hard to understand how Channel 5 missed this information. Her comments have been covered very well by gossip websites in the past".
In fact, online research would have flagged all matches and highlighted her comments. And in an emerging twist, Tila Tequila has now hit back at Channel 5, giving the producers an ultimatum to reinstate her back in the show or she will sue. As reported in the Metro, Tila is claiming the comments were readily available and that the producers must have known about them before she went into the house.
Reality TV by its very nature is risky business for broadcasters who must comply with Ofcom regulations and manage their reputations. Having the right tools in place to conduct thorough fact-checking and background checks is vital but only the first step. Implementing a strict background check process for all reality television show participants is the only way to ensure there are no surprises when the cameras start rolling.
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