Producers of The Jeremy Kyle Show were grilled on Tuesday morning by MPs as part of an inquiry into reality TV – and there were many uncomfortable moments as they struggled to answer questions.
MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee blasted the producers for not being able to answer questions, in particular about the reliance on lie detector tests, pre-show screening of guests, the show’s aftercare and Kyle’s presenting style.
The talk show was suspended indefinitely by ITV in May following the death of 63-year-old Steve Dymond, who had participated in an episode (that was not aired) the week before he suddenly died.
The programme, which has been a regular fixture in the TV schedule since 2005, was cancelled after calls from MPs and members of the public.
The oral evidence session was part of an independent review of care processes on reality shows, which the announced following the death of Dymond. The host of the show, Jeremy Kyle, refused to take part in the inquiry.
The investigation will establish what psychological support production companies and broadcasters are currently offering contributors, how these can be improved, where responsibility lies in providing these services, and what the future holds for reality TV.
A range of former TV participants and programme-makers will be invited to give evidence over the coming months.
Collins made clear at the beginning of the session that the specific circumstances surrounding the death of Dymond was not to be discussed as it was a matter for the coroner.
Here are five of the most awkward moments of the sessions.
1. No-one could answer questions about how accurate lie detectors are
An executive producer of The Jeremy Kyle Show has been criticised as “irresponsible” for using lie-detector tests on the programme.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee chairman Damian Collins said show bosses should have known more about the accuracy of tests.
A clip showing lie detector test results being revealed to guests on the programme was shown during the session.
Tom McLennan, one of the executive producers of the show, was criticised for not being able to answer what the percentage of accuracy of lie detector tests is.
He told the committee: “We’ve always made it very, very clear to viewers and participants of the show that the lie detector is not 100% accurate...”
But Collins said the results are presented as fact by Kyle, who in the clip shown to MPs could be seen yelling at a woman that she was a liar, while holding lie detector results.
He said: “The disclaimer doesn’t mean very much, does it? It’s being presented as black and white... That’s causing considerable distress.”
He said it was “astonishing” that “you don’t know itself what the range is, in terms of the likeliness of getting a true accurate reading.... I’m disappointed that you can’t do that.”
McLennan said he was “not a lie-detector expert”.
Collins said: “If it wasn’t for the lie-detector test, we might not be sitting here today.”
He added: “Jeremy did have a strong opinion about the lie detector. He’s got very strong views.... He strongly believed in the tests.”
2. MPs told the makers of the show they should be ashamed of themselves
Jo Stevens MP, also on the committee, said the show had a duty of care and that if producers didn’t know how accurate the lie detectors were, then the “entire premise of the show is fake”.
ITV’s managing director Julian Bellamy claimed there had never been an Ofcom complaint upheld against them regarding the treatment of the 20,000 participants in the history the show.
“We know the show was controversial,” Mr McLennan added. “But we did take our duty of care very seriously.”
However, Paul Farrelly MP said it was “trash TV” and the makers of the show “should be ashamed of themselves”.
3. The ‘director of aftercare’ was criticised
Graham Stanier, director of aftercare for the programme, came under fire for how he looked after guests, and was questioned over his training for the role.
He was asked if he had a qualification in psychology to which he replied “I’ve studied... modules”.
An MP asked: “So no one qualified and registered?”
The other witnesses shared a glance before Steiner stressed he was a qualified psychotherapist.
MPs asked why no professional registered by the Health and Care Professions Council was part of the team responsible for guest welfare given they were working with vulnerable adults.
The ITV bosses said they would have to write to the committee to answer that.
4. Jeremy Kyle’s presenting style came under fire – and not just by MPs
The Jeremy Kyle Show’s director of aftercare Graham Stanier said he was not responsible for Kyle’s style.
“That is the presenter’s style. I’m responsible for me and my behaviour. I can’t be responsible for the presenter’s behaviour,” he told MPs.
“In the moment he (Kyle) becomes passionate, opinionated, he will deliver in that way.
“If people are uncomfortable … I think that’s a production issue.”
Shown a clip of Kyle calling a guest a “liar,” he said: “I’m never comfortable with black and white statements.”
5. Producers were accused of exploiting guests who became distressed
The producers were accused of exploiting guests who were clearly distressed and continuing to film when they had signalled they no longer wanted to take part.
Stanier explained he told guests that if they felt uncomfortable or it was getting too much, they could leave the stage at any time, however MPs pointed out that actually when this happened it was still part of the show.
Filming continued when guests left the stage, and it was “part of the entertainment”, MPs said.
“You have a very unusual idea about duty of care,” Stanier was told.
Julian Knight accused McLennan of using these moments to exploit guests to create more entertainment.
“Instead of actually allowing them off the stage and giving them peace and privacy to regather their thoughts [...] effectively constructed a production that then effectively allows them to exploited further and remain part of the entertainment when Mr Stanier has told them they by doing this [leaving the stage] they are not part of the entertainment.
McLennan, who looked angry throughout the exchange, said he did not agree with the word “exploit”.
“Everyone was fully aware of how the show worked and had watched it for many years,” he said.
6. An executive producer stumbled over questions on whether Facebook was trawled for “people with problems”
Collins questioned bosses how guests were chosen for the programme and how it was advertised.
He asked: “Were you trawling through Facebook for applicants. Were you advertising for people with problems?”
McLennan said that 99% of people who came on the show came through the advert on TV however he stumbled over whether Facebook was used and whether producers trawled Facebook despite Collins repeatedly asking the question.
The inquiry continues.