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The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is currently running a reality TV inquiry, following the death of a man who had appeared on ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle Show in May 2019. Senior executives from some of the UK’s most popular reality TV shows are appearing in front of MPs to answer questions and give evidence as part of the investigation, which is shedding light on the way these shows are produced and how contestants are sourced and cared for.

One theme that has recently emerged from the inquiry was the subject of body image, specifically regarding popular ITV show Love Island. MP Julie Elliott asked ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall whether she thought ITV Studios had a responsibility to show different types of body image among contestants appearing on reality TV shows like Love Island. She emphasised that this is especially important given that more than half of 18 to 34 year-olds think reality TV and social media negatively affect the way they view their body image, according to ComRes.

Dame Carolyn McCall replied: “I think the most important thing is that the people on Love Island tend to be young. They are healthy. We do a BMI test. They are all within the healthy range of BMI or above. If you look at the series now that is ongoing, they are not all the same shape, neither the men nor the women. They are different. There are variations of shapes, although I absolutely take your point, which is that they are all fit, healthy, young individuals because it is a dating show. It is not ‘I’m a Celebrity’, which is a range of celebrities of all different shapes and sizes who go on that show.”

MP Julie Elliott then pushed for more information about whether there were guidelines on the physical appearance in the casting process, to which Dame Carolyn McCall replied: “There is a very, very rigorous application and casting process.”

Our view on the reality tv inquiry

At Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors we take the issue of how body image is portrayed in the media, and the impact this can have on young and vulnerable people, very seriously. Our infographic on social media and body imagehighlights the very real connection between what people see online and their own perception of their physical appearance.

Michael Saul, from Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, said: “While it is encouraging to see this being debated in parliament and during the reality TV inquiry, we urgently need more action from those in charge of social networks to ensure people - especially young people - are not being harmed by what they see when scrolling through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“As a starting point, Instagram should consider placing an age limit on images that show the effects of cosmetic procedures and force users to be much more transparent when it comes to promoting the effects of cosmetic surgery. Until this happens, I worry that a huge number of young social media users risk being affected mentally - and physically - by unrealistic images they are bombarded with on a daily basis.”

In our recent survey, it emerged that 74 per cent of the British public want to introduce an age limit for content posted on social media that promotes or demonstrates the effects of cosmetic procedures.

what happens next

The next stage of the reality TV inquiry will see Channel 4 bosses brought in front of MPs to answer questions about the impact of some of their biggest reality TV shows on the British viewing public. It is likely that body image will crop up again in these discussions and this is an important conversation that should extend beyond reality TV, if we are to address some of the issues that we know are causing very real problems in society today.

For more information about the link between body image and social media usage, click here to take a look at our infographic. Speak to us today if you have undergone a botched cosmetic procedure and think you might have a legal case.

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