Reality TV in Britain: Sadism is entertainment

October 6th, 2008 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 6 (IANS) In ancient Rome, ultimate reality entertainment meant watching gladiators kill each other. In Spain, it’s still done, but with bulls. In modern Britain, reality television has already reached the threshold of sadism.Channel Five has now been accused of crossing the sane borders of entertainment into sadism with its weekly reality show “Unbreakable”, to be telecast from Tuesday night.

The contestants are buried alive, trapped in a tent full of gas and made to wade through piranha-infested water.

They are also subjected to waterboarding, a torture technique said to be used by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on terror suspects. This involves being tied down on a board, tilted back and having water poured over the face, which recreates the experience of drowning.

In another test, their hands and feet are bound and they are dumped in a 15-foot tank of water and forced to leap up and down for air.

The motto for “Unbreakable” is Pain is Glory, Pain is Pride, Pain is Great to Watch.

The channel’s website introduces many painful links. Here’s one: “Make or Break: Want to see more pain?” Or this: “Best Bits: See where they broke/bailed/choked/threw up…”

The eight volunteers include a musician, a 20-year-old female bouncer and a personal trainer.

According to the Daily Mail, which calls “Unbreakable” the most sickening reality show yet, one of the volunteers was so traumatised he had convulsions on the first day of filming, another ran away into the African bush - where it was being shot - and had to be found with tracker dogs.

The show’s presenter, Benedict Allen, has said he is worried about contestants’ safety.

“We knew we couldn’t afford to kill anyone but yes, there were times when I was seriously worried. It got pretty hairy. Two hours into filming on the first day, one of the contestants collapsed on the floor and suffered convulsions. We were stuck in the depths of jungle in Guyana and we had to get him out. It didn’t start well,” he said.

The show’s producers are not rattled, yet. A Channel Five spokesman said: “All the participants in ‘Unbreakable’ were aware of the type of the challenges they would face prior to filming. All tests were supervised by experts and the volunteers had mental and physical assessments before the show.”

But critics say the content is unacceptable.

John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the media select committee, said: “You have to ask, where is it going to end? It seems that scenes of torture are being used as entertainment. What next? Reality contestants having electric shock treatment? There is a point where such things should not be shown on television.”

John Beyer, director of lobby group Mediawatch UK, said the content breaches the code of Ofcom, Britain’s broadcasting regulator.

“Waterboarding is a form of torture that I believe is illegal under international law and so should not feature in any programme merely as a form of entertainment,” he said.

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