Raj Dhonota: I was cannon fodder in reality ratings war

Insider's view: They don't care about the contestants. They look for cracks and expose them
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The Independent Online

Let me start by saying that producers have a job to do. That job is to win ratings – that's how they are judged. And from the success of the various reality TV shows, most of them have done their job exceptionally well.

But in achieving their goals and winning the ratings war, what price is being paid, and by whom? My answer is simple. A huge price is being paid by the contestants.

From my experiences on The Apprentice, these producers do not care one iota about the welfare of the contestants nor about how their manipulation of the edits could impact on a life. If anything, I think they look for cracks and do whatever they can to expose them. They build you up to break you down. That's what makes "good TV".

We had daily contact with the producers on The Apprentice. They were continuously looking for angles, contriving arguments, encouraging people to fight and cry. They would interview us and tell us what other contestants were allegedly saying about us to get a reaction. Whenever someone would start to argue, break down or cry, the producers and cameras would swarm around like bees.

I remember one producer at an after-show get together laughing about how a contestant was in tears because they were missing their children. With great amusement, he was telling us how he had then cut to another contestant ridiculing people who could not focus on business because of emotional problems. He ended with: "It's hilarious, wait until you see it."

I assume another producer was laughing just as much when he edited the sales pitch I gave to Paul McKenna. Rather than show my speech in full because it was too boring, they edited it to make it look like I was so awestruck that I could not string two sentences together. Imagine knowing the truth, but millions of people believing what they were seeing. Imagine the thought of potential employers or in my case, business clients, thinking you were completely incompetent. It looked so real even my family thought it was the truth. Even now when I meet people, they seem surprised I can pull more than a few sentences together.

I think the pressure can be unbearable for some. In The Apprentice, some loved the idea of being seen by millions while others cowered at the thought. It is the latter, the most vulnerable,who were most exposed by the producers.

You know there will be millions of people watching every move you make, every decision you take. And yet you know the producers are pushing you down a certain avenue. You are being set up to fail. Wherever they could, they would hold us up to delay us so we were under more pressure as time ticked away. Everything is stacked against you. What's worse is that people believe what they see.

I was so disgusted at how the producers manipulated everything in the first series of The Apprentice that I refused to watch it after the sixth episode. I refuse to watch any reality TV programme because I have seen that nothing is as it is made to appear.

The author was a contestant in the first series of The Apprentice in 2005