Belfast Telegraph

Early days of Big Brother were uncharted water, says Channel 4 boss

Commissioning editor Alisa Pomeroy said broadcasters improved their aftercare as understanding of the format grew.

Jade Goody (Ian West/PA)
Jade Goody (Ian West/PA)

A Channel 4 boss has said that the early years of Big Brother were like “uncharted water” and that aftercare has “evolved as we know the genre more and more”.

The broadcaster is preparing to air a series exploring the life of Jade Goody, who found overnight fame when she appeared on the third series of the show in 2002.

That series saw Goody engage in a sex act with fellow contestant PJ Ellis, and during a later appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 she was accused of racially bullying Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

Channel 4 commissioning editor Alisa Pomeroy said the broadcaster would have the same discussions now as it had then over whether to air such scenes.

She said: “In those days we had to comply with the Ofcom code and now we have to comply with the Ofcom code in terms of what we show and what we don’t show.

“Those things are constantly being reevaluated and constantly evolving.

“I think that very difficult discussions were had about it then and we would have really difficult and in-depth discussions with our lawyers and the production company about it now.

“I don’t think the discussions would be different now.”

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Jade Goody leaves the Big Brother house in 2002 (Yui Mok/PA)

Pomeroy also said that broadcasters had improved their aftercare as their understanding of the format had grown.

She said: “Back in those days reality TV was uncharted water. Every reality TV show that has happened subsequently we have learnt more and more and more from.

“So yes, it has evolved and aftercare has evolved as we know the genre more and more.”

The deaths of former Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis have led to increased scrutiny on broadcasters over reality show aftercare.

In July this year Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon said it was a “mistake” to broadcast some scenes involving Goody.

Mahon told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee inquiry into reality TV that she doubted such scenes would be shown now.

She said the way Goody had treated in the press, and how she was shown on the programme, would not happen today because of the “much stronger contributor care protocols” they have in place.

Goody died in 2009 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

It probably felt more shocking then than it might have done now because it was so new Rob Coldstream, director

The series is directed by award-winning filmmaker Rob Coldstream, who is responsible for The Rise And Fall Of Tony Blair and The Last Days Of Anne Boleyn.

He said scenes involving Goody felt more shocking then because reality TV was so new and both the public and broadcaster were “just working out how to navigate it”.

He said: “I think it was that, at the time, the internet was a really new thing, and Big Brother was the first TV programme to be live streamed through the night.

“That was why there was this moment when people turned around and watched this at home. It was totally revolutionary.

“It probably felt more shocking then than it might have done now because it was so new and the technology, people were just working out how to navigate it.”

Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain airs on Wednesday August 7 at 9pm on Channel 4.

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