‘Big Brother’ contestants testify over scandal

Former participant: Reality TV producers gave me psychiatric drugs, encouraged on-camera copulation.

Big Brother contestant 370 (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Big Brother contestant 370
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Stars of the popular reality TV show Big Brother testified before the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee on Monday as a scandal brewed over the production’s administration of psychiatric pills to participants.
Former contestant Sa’ar Sheinfein is suing the producers of Big Brother, claiming that he was given medication meant for schizophrenics and told that they were sleeping pills.
“I asked to be on Big Brother; I wanted to have the experience I was promised,” he explained.
“The production put a lot of pressure and tried to convince me. I was afraid for my career, for my life. They said I’m a sensitive guy, I can do what I want, and then they asked me to have sex on camera.”
Sheinfein implied that the drugs were given to contestants to lower their inhibitions, so they could be influenced to make the show more interesting.
According to Sheinfein, the production forced him to see psychiatrist Dr. Ilan Rabinowitz, who gave him pills that he claimed are weak and commonly prescribed. The season-two finalist said that had he known the medication was for schizophrenia, he would not have taken the pills, certainly not for two months.
Tensions were high throughout the meeting, with the show’s contestants yelling at each other and MKs.
Eliraz Sadeh, the winner of the reality show’s second season and current Channel 24 video jockey, shouted at Sheinfein, saying that if there weren’t psychiatrists, he would not have anyone to talk to, and instead he would “knock his head on the wall.”
Sheinfein retorted that Sadeh also took psychiatric medication, but will not admit to it, and Sadeh threatened to sue him for libel.
Sadeh also got into a shouting match with MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), who said that Big Brother contestants are “prostituting themselves, and they should be thankful that they are being medicated.”
The season-two winner told Ze’ev that he was speaking nonsense and only wanted media attention. Ze’ev responded by saying that Sadeh should take a pill.
Another Big Brother participant, wedding dress designer Pnina Tornai was removed from the meeting by Knesset security after shouting at MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich (Kadima).
Shamalov-Berkovich said she saw “nauseating” clips from the reality TV show on YouTube, and slammed it for having no values and negatively influencing children and teens.
“I represent the state much more than you do, and I am much more influential than you,” Tornai snapped, before being escorted out of the room.
According to Ran Telem, the deputy director-general of Channel 2 grantee Keshet on which Big Brother is broadcast, the program separates its entertainment and medical sides and is very sensitive to participants’ mental state.
Telem explained that everyone on Big Brother undergoes a medical examination before the show is filmed, and that psychologists regularly meet with the contestants.
Education Committee chairman Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) concluded the meeting by saying that today, more children want to be reality stars when they grow up than have real jobs. He called for there to be clearer rules and limitations for such TV shows.