Health Ministry head: Cancel ‘Big Brother' show

Gamzu tells 'Post' reality program is "disgusting and should not be broadcast," but if it is, medical team must observe code of ethics.

Big Brother participants 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Mako website)
Big Brother participants 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Mako website)
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. Television reality shows like Keshet’s Israeli version of Big Brother are “disgusting and should not be broadcast,” But if the show is not barred by the Channel 2 Authority, he said, the medical staffers hired by the show’s production company have to observe a code of ethics.
In Big Brother, whose broadcast in the coming year has not yet been approved despite its very high ratings, two dozen participants are locked up in a villa for months without connections to the outside world as they try to eliminate the others so they can earn a million-shekel prize.
Last season, participants accused Dr. Ilan Rabinovich – a psychiatrist – of giving them psychoactive drugs of which they were unaware and causing their state of mind to deteriorate.
But Gamzu stated that a committee he appointed to heard both sides examined the evidence and found that Rabinovich “did not find the need at this point” to establish a medical committee to determine medical negligence and possible punishment.
“The committee did not find that he violated medical ethics or committed violations. But it is true that he looked bad in the media,” Gamzu said.
“Keshet has to be more and better supervision,” he said.
At the director-general’s order, ministry officials formulated guidelines of principles for medical personnel working for reality shows. He also asked for an ethical code.
According to the Dr. Gadi Lubin and others who prepared the document, reality shows involve “significant pressure” on participants with short- and long-term dangers.
“The candidates for participation must be aware of the possible damage to his mental and even physical condition,” it said. The TV company has direct responsibility for their physical and emotional health, and the medical personnel must have no other considerations than medical ones.
Participants must undergo careful examination to determine if they are emotionally strong enough to be on the show. This must override the desire for ratings to determine who takes part, the document said. The team of medical professionals needs freedom of action and authority to make the final decisions. The participants have to sign a document with the production and TV companies stating that they know taking part will mean a “drastic change” in their lives and disconnection for their national support system of family and friends.
This could lead to ‘significant mental crisis, and sometimes physical ones. Your decision to participate expresses a personal choice that means conscious consent to exposure to this risk,” says the document.
Participants and representatives of the companies must meet regularly to assess possible emotional or physical conditions and whether they are reaching a crisis, the document said, in which crisis help must be given -- including a decision to leave the show. The participants‚ privacy and honor must be respected and guarded, and the production company may be told only if the participant agrees fully and if there is a need for this, it continued.
After the show ends, if necessary, participants must continue to be followed and treated emotionally and physically if necessary, the ministry stated.
It is not known whether Gamzu's statement that Rabinovich was not found to violate medical ethics rules would make it possible for Big Brother to run its new season.