The Jeremy Kyle Show’s bosses have been criticised by MPs for putting guests through lie detector tests without knowing how accurate those tests were.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the House of Commons culture select committee, said the producers’ lack of expert knowledge was “astonishing”.
The committee opened an inquiry after Kyle’s show was axed in May, following the death of participant Steve Dymond.
Mr Dymond, 63, died around a week after reportedly failing a lie detector test.
No more lie detector shows
At a hearing on Tuesday, ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said the show had followed the correct procedures, but that the broadcaster would not make any similar series involving lie detectors in the future.
Mr Collins labelled The Jeremy Kyle Show’s makers “irresponsible” after executive producer Tom McLennan admitted the polygraphs used during the show’s 14-year history were “not 100% accurate”, and that he did not know how reliable they were.
“I’m not a lie detector expert,” he told the committee.
Mr Collins told him: “If it wasn’t for the lie-detector test, we might not be sitting here today.”
‘Considerable distress’ caused
The Jeremy Kyle Show dealt with “really vulnerable people” who were led to believe the results were accurate, Mr Collins said.
“It’s being presented as black and white,” he said. “That is causing considerable distress to the people receiving the results.”
He added: “I can’t see how someone can give informed consent to take part in a lie detector test when they have got no idea how accurate it is, or even what the range of accuracy is for that test.”
Jo Stevens MP, also on the committee, said programme-makers had a duty of care and that if producers didn’t know how accurate the lie detectors were, then the “entire premise of the show is fake”.
‘People knew what they were getting into’
However, Dame Carolyn said members of the production team told guests in advance that the tests were not infallible, and prepared them for the results.
“They used to go through with participants the worst consequences of a lie detector test,” she said. “They would actually talk to participants about how they would feel, what they would think, if the lie detector test went against them.”
ITV “probably went beyond what is required” to explain that the results were not necessarily reliable, she said.
“I honestly think that the team did whatever they could to explain that. There will be some individuals that would not listen, I think, probably. That’s just human nature.
“But I think the production team would have done everything they could to ensure people understood what they were getting into on that show.”
Julian Bellamy, ITV Studios managing director, confirmed that the broadcaster would continue working with Kyle – but not on another “conflict resolution” show.
He said there had never been an Ofcom complaint upheld against them regarding the treatment of the 20,000 participants in the history the show.
Executive producer Tom McLennan said: “We know the show was controversial. But we did take our duty of care very seriously.”
However, Paul Farrelly MP branded it “trash TV” and said the makers of the show “should be ashamed of themselves”.
‘Jeremy believed in the tests’
Jeremy Kyle last week turned down a request to appear before the committee, which is investigating reality TV.
Mr McLennan said viewers “respected Jeremy, they loved Jeremy and they wanted to hear his thoughts… Jeremy was a fantastic presenter”.
The host was “always striving for resolution”, he said.
He went on: “Jeremy did have a strong opinion about the lie detector. He’s got very strong views. He strongly believed in the tests.”
Guests on the show were warned about the host’s “presenting style” before they recorded the programme, according to documents released on Tuesday.
Love Island and body image
The committee’s inquiry will invite a range of former TV participants and programme-makers to give evidence over the coming months.
It will also consider the wider issues facing reality TV shows, such as Love Island.
On Tuesday, Dame Carolyn defended ITV over questions regarding the perceived lack of different body types on the dating show.
“We do a range of shows,” she said, noting I’m a Celebrity, Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent, as well as The X Factor and Love Island.
“They are very different shows and they show the diversity of Britain completely.
“For Love Island, the most important thing on that is the people are young and healthy. They are all within the healthy range of BMI or above.
“They are not all the same shape, there are variations of shape.
“Although I take your point, they are all fit, healthy, young individuals because it’s a dating show.”