On 13 May, ITV announced that the Jeremy Kyle Show is off air. But it’s appalling that it took a tragedy to end such a vile show. Because the show abused people’s vulnerability for fourteen years.
It took the death of a Jeremy Kyle guest to end the show. An ITV spokesperson said:
Everyone at ITV and The Jeremy Kyle Show is shocked and saddened at the news of the death of a participant in the show a week after the recording of the episode they featured in and our thoughts are with their family and friends
The broadcaster won’t “screen the episode” featuring the person who died. According to the spokesperson, ITV will “conduct a review” in light of “the seriousness of this event”. And ITV has suspended “both filming and broadcasting” of any future shows.
But the response to this news sent out a clear signal. Kyle’s adversarial style and continued exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people should have been booted off air a long time ago.
Ash Sarkar called it a “damning indictment of how deeply sadistic our society is when it comes to the poor and vulnerable”.
It shouldn't have taken someone dying for The Jeremy Kyle Show to be taken off the air. For nearly 15 years it profited from exploiting addiction, poverty and human misery. It's a damning indictment of how deeply sadistic our society is when it comes to the poor and vulnerable.
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) May 13, 2019
As campaigner Charlotte Hughes noted, the show’s “the lowest of the low”:
Goid. This programme has taken advantage of vulnerable people’s chaotic life’s and held them to public ridicule. This sort of tv programme is the lowest of the low. Let's hope that it doesn't return and that all the employees on the show find… https://t.co/hxtClW5kSu
— Charlotte Hughes. The Poor Side Of life (@charlotteh71) May 13, 2019
And many other people pointed out the hideous way the show treated people:
The Jeremy Kyle Show was always a vampiric show – all about telling its viewers it was acceptable to hate poor people. It was intended to complement a political era where punishing people on benefits became normalised as an acceptable form of prejudice. Hope it doesn’t return
— shon faye. (@shonfaye) May 13, 2019
The Jeremy Kyle show was built on the exploitation of mental illness, addiction and poverty, disgraceful programme that should have been taken off air years ago.
— ChampionshipAVFCMatt (@villamatt1874) May 13, 2019
Perhaps the Jeremy Kyle tragedy will teach television production companies that working class people aren't exhibits in a ghastly, jeering freak show.
— Otto English (@Otto_English) May 13, 2019
Fourteen years too late
Since 2005, the Jeremy Kyle Show has led the way in voyeuristic “poverty porn” TV. It’s so-called because it “captures human beings in vulnerable, deeply personal moments, and packages that trauma (and humiliation) for consumption”. The show also plays with dangerous classist tropes. It pits people, usually working class, against each other, egged on by Kyle and the audience.
Once the cameras stop rolling, there’s little care or concern for the guests featured. As The Canary reported in 2017, one episode led to a “hostage situation”. After a couple appeared on the show, a woman sustained serious injuries when her partner assaulted her. And this wasn’t an isolated incident; ‘entertainment’ always trumped real care for individuals’ lives:
- In June of 2012, one guest was jailed for six months after dodging community service to appear on the show.
- In 2014, 28-year-old Richard Unwin was on the show to confront his ex-partner and her new boyfriend. Months later, he was jailed for attacking the new boyfriend in a jealous rage.
- Producers allowed guests on one show despite witnessing them fight one another the previous evening. Both appeared after spending the night in the cells
Yet Kyle literally made millions from exploitation. In 2014, his contract with ITV was reportedly worth £2m a year. For fourteen years, the warning signs went unheeded, and tragically a guest is now dead.
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