Balls acts to protect children in reality shows from ‘exploitation’

Tougher rules governing the use of children in reality TV shows were demanded by the Government today.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls ordered a review of existing regulations governing children performing – which were drawn up in 1968.

He said that parents and ministers were worried that programme-makers were guilty of “pushing the boundaries to provide “shock value” and boost ratings – rather than putting children first.

The existing regulations had been drawn up in an era where there were only three TV channels operating.

They included strict rules governing the use of children in entertainment programmes but they did not cover factual programmes – such as BBC 1’s John Craven’s Newsround and Blue Peter.

“When you come to reality TV shows we have a combination of fact and fiction and the regulations really don’t cover them,” said Mr Balls.

“Where many parents, educators and ministers become concerned is when programme makers seem determined to keep pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable to provide shock value for viewers and push up ratings – rather than do anything positive and meaningful for our children, our culture or our country.”

He cited one Channel Four programme, Boys and Girls Alone, as having caused concern. In it, a group of 20 children aged eight to 11 were left to their own devices in isolated cottages in Cornwall. The show contained scenes of the youngsters fighting and crying.

He also said that programmes like Channel Four’s Wife Swap, where parents swop families as evidence of those that needed new regulations to cover them.

One of the protections that the regulations should give children was to ensure their education did not suffer. The time-consuming nature of participating in reality TV shows could erode that.

“As a country, we want to continue celebrating the brilliant performances of children in stage shows like Billy Elliott or programmes like Britain’s Got Talent and it is right that our talented children should continue aspiring to appear on those stages. ...

“The original laws were drawn up in 1968 to ensure that children could perform but without harm to their health or education and we now need to make sure they are fit for the 21st century.”

Mr Balls announced that Sarah Thane, who formerly chaired the Royal Television Society, would head the review. It would cover local theatre and talent shows as well as TV and films.

One of the problems with existing legislation is that local authorities have been left to police it – with the result some take their responsibilities more seriously than others.

“The incentive for the production company is to look around the country trying to find somewhere where you can get away with a little bit more,” Mr Balls added.

The review was ordered on the day ministers published a report on the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing by Professor David Buckingham, of London University’s Institute of Education, who warned: “Today’s children are growing up in an increasingly commercial world.”

The report, which also warned that many aspects of digital media were exempt from existing regulations, estimated that it now cost – on average – £194,000 to raise a child from birth to 21 (or £25 a day). “This figure has risen 38 per cent in the past five years,” it added.

One of the reasons is that ad hoc gifts to children have soared to the tune of £16 a week – although pocket money has remained relatively constant in real terms for the past few decades – at £10 a week in today’s figures.

It concluded: “Television companies’ decisions about what kinds of programmes to produce are also based on the potential for selling programmes in international markets.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing