OPINION: Is 15 minutes of fame worth it?

Hunkering down with television can bring substantial benefits to charities, but it also has its downside.

The makers of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! have defended the series against claims that it exploited recovering addict Daniella Westbrook by pointing out that the first contestant eviction raised £650,000 for charities.

The voluntary organisations that will benefit from this year's extravaganza may like to reflect on how well that excuse washes with their supporters.

Meanwhile, the National Trust has issued a mea culpa for allowing the symbol of Channel 4's Big Brother to be painted on its site at the White Horse of Uffington.

Charities, as we all know, have only their good name to trade upon. Once it is tarnished, it's a hard fight to make it all shiny and new again.

It's precisely your good name that the makers of I'm A Celebrity ... are after in order to dignify exhibitionism and voyeurism by giving it some sort of ethical dimension. All harmless fun or something more insidious?

The appeal of television to the third sector is much the same as its appeal to punters who volunteer to take part in reality TV shows. Such formats offer instant recognition and a pot of money. But they also bring enormous potential for looking very craven indeed.

I was once involved in a Challenge Anneka project. This track-suited wonder girl used to transform dreams into realities in 24 hours. At least that was the conceit of the series. The reality, when she converted a pair of bungalows into halfway houses for disabled people on behalf of a charity, was that the whole scheme was months in the planning. So I aided and abetted the swindling of a TV audience. It was, I decided, a white lie. Not too much harm done.

But what next? Celebrity Wife Swap, perhaps, with Relate taking a slice?

As the formats get cruder and more exploitative, the risks for all charities of pocketing the money and looking the other way grow ever greater.

Peter Stanford is a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards.

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