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.”

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Business, Marketing and Tourism Volunteer Projects

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit