Reality strikes: MKs take on the Big Brother

Kadima MK submits complaint against reality TV-show participant for "incitement to terror" as legislators hope to curb irresponsible messages.

big brother 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
big brother 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar expressed hope Wednesday that Israel’s youth would find more appropriate heroes than the stars of the reality show Big Brother, but in the Knesset, legislators have taken a more active approach to curbing what they view as the hit television program’s irresponsible messages.
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) submitted an official complaint with the Mevaseret Zion police station Wednesday morning against Freida Hecht, one of the participants in the prime-time reality program for what Schneller claimed was “incitement to violence or terror.”.
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Hecht had said, “I’ll give credit to suicide bombers who come and blow up near me, because I am certain that their own success will do us good.”
The already-controversial figure continued, “When you are happy, and things are good for you, only good things can come from you. I give credit to those who succeed.
When someone gives credit and is happy in others’ happiness, somehow it trickles down to them, too.”
This was not the first time this week that the hit program managed to get under legislators’ skin.
On Sunday, Orit Zuarets (Kadima) condemned the program for broadcasting what she termed “serial sexual violence” after the show’s editor, Yoram Zak, directed lewd comments at participant Dana Ron into a microphone he apparently did not know was live.
“Good evening, Dana,” viewers heard him say. “You have half-aminute to turn to the audience and convince them why you are the one who wants me to play with my [sex organ] between your breasts.”
During the uproar over the comments, Zak announced Sunday that he would be going on leave from the show. But he reportedly returned to work on Wednesday, to the fury of women’s groups.
Zak’s comments were broadcast live on the 24-hour Big Brother Channel.
In other countries, such as the UK, where 24-hour viewing is enabled, the program broadcasts with a 10- or 15-minute delay to allow libelous or unacceptable content to be removed.
Zuarets said she intends to submit a bill by which a contractor who “airs programs that encourage violence of any manner will be required to also offer a prime-time slot in which they contradict those messages, and will be fined a penalty equal to the income earned from advertisements by the program.”
The fine, she said, would be then donated to organizations working to reduce violence.
“The permissive public atmosphere in which an entire generation grew, makes it appropriate to humiliate and degrade women and to act with violence toward the ‘other,’ and unfortunately I have discovered that it can sometimes only be stopped by legislation that targets the income of the television franchise-holders,” explained Zuarets. “The Second Authority for Broadcasting is flooded by complaints regarding statements made by contestants on the program, as well as regarding the statements by its editor, but it does not stop the flood of sexism and violence that is engulfing prime-time. We, as legislators, must take responsibility for the low standards of messages broadcast.”
Big Brother, now in its third season, enjoys high ratings among the Israeli viewers. Participants with controversial views have consistently been a facet of the programming, although this season has drawn more high-level criticism for recent statements than the previous two.
“The decline in the general culture is reflected in Big Brother, as well as the opposite – Big Brother also encourages that decline,” complained MK Nachman Shai (Kadima). “The participants understand that if they do not take their opinions and their behavior to extremes they will not survive the selection process.”
Shai, who himself served as a judge on the short-lived Ambassador reality show, which made contestants compete in public diplomacy projects, said the problem was made worse by the fact that “it is not only television – but in Israel of 2011, the country is sometimes run like a reality show.
I’ve said in the past that the way that [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak invites the generals into his office for confessionals reminds me of the way Big Brother calls in contestants to pour out their hearts.”
In the past, Shai was a founder and CEO of the Second Authority for Television and Radio, as well as chairman of the board of directors of the Israel Television News Company and chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
“I believe that eventually, this reality trend will pass,” he said, but warned that “in the meantime, in Israel, there is something in our culture that takes these phenomena to the most distant and terrible extreme.”
Rather than overseeing legislation or criminal complaints, the Second Authority is meant to serve as a regulatory body for the shows that it broadcasts, he added.
“The Second Authority can get involved, but it is always afraid that people will say it is square or censorious, and instead become more and more lenient and permissive.”