Opinion: Get kids off these television freak shows

Nick Cater, a consultant and writer, catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

There can be few charity workers who have the time to watch The Jeremy Kyle Show, a daytime TV programme that takes the confrontational dysfunctional family genre - DNA tests and more - to new depths.

By relentlessly exploiting the personal failings of the poor, emotionally confused and ill-educated - the kind of people often aided by the voluntary sector - its abrasive eponymous presenter achieves the minor miracle of making his rival TV hosts Trisha Goddard and Jerry Springer appear as insightful, compassionate intellectuals.

As a divorced former advertising salesman whose brother survived drug addiction - all facts promoted by his media employers' websites - Kyle offers the bluff 'I've-been-there' approach that in today's society often excuses rudeness as plain dealing and accepts indiscriminate cruelty as tough love.

If Kyle stuck to metaphorically crucifying inadequate and inarticulate adults, one might stretch a point to accept that even those demonstrably unable to understand and protect their own best interests - see Big Brother and almost any other reality show - are fair game for profiteering exposure by television companies.

But alongside damaged families put on show in a 21st-century version of the public stocks, Kyle's star turns occasionally include the children caught up in their parents' troubled lives and reacting in predictably problematic ways.

In this he joins a growing number of shows that expose family problems, from Super Nanny to the calculated humiliation of Brat Camp. By definition, the children in these shows cannot give their informed consent to being named and shamed or having their sins - from drink and drugs to promiscuity and criminality - paraded on TV.

Were these children in court instead of on television, their identities would in most cases be protected. If they were dragged onto the streets to face summary justice for their failings, we would be shocked.

But on TV, the rights of these children to family life, privacy and childhood - let alone some real help - are being deliberately denied by adults who should know better, from parents to TV producers.

A number of charities, from MediaWise to Barnardo's, are now taking an interest in aspects of how TV is treating these vulnerable, if often crudely voluble, children. Let's hope a few more in the sector take a stand and put a stop to Jeremy Kyle and his ilk.

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