Big Brother exec Katy Manley has said it is “derogatory and disingenuous” for people to dismiss reality TV shows as “guilty pleasures.”
Speaking during an Edinburgh TV Festival debate titled TV’s Snobbery Problem, Initial bosss Manley, who is helming the ITV Big Brother reboot with Natalka Znak, blasted those who don’t respect shows in which “people say their opinions in their own words.”
“Maybe that is not as palatable for [the detractors],” she added. “Maybe it’s because they’re not watching polished TV professionals but I think it’s derogatory and disingenuous to say these shows are guilty pleasures. There are hundreds of people working on them.”
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Part of “the snobbery” is a “British sensibility to dismiss people who don’t have a traditional talent like singing or writing a book,” added Manley. Big Brother will return to ITV – its third UK network – later this year, five years after it was axed by Channel 5.
To improve the situation, the boss of the Banijay-backed producer said more socioeconomic diversity is required on these big reality stalwarts. “Contributors respond better when producers are similar to them so it is absolutely imperative that the industry is diverse in every way,” said Manley.
Jim Allen, a former I’m a Celebrity exec and RDF boss, added that TV “knows it has a problem [with socioeconomic diversity] but hasn’t done enough about it in the last few years.”
“Prejudices come through by having too many people who were educated in a similar way and went to similar universities,” he added.
Denise Seneviratne, a commissioner for Channel 5 and Paramount+ and former reality exec, said this situation has got better over the past decade, however while EastEnders exec Kate Oates talked up socioeconomic divesity in soaps, which leads to “truthful and authentic” stories.
“Nine out of 10 CVs were coming in from Eton 10 years ago and I don’t know if we’re getting that bad a balance at the moment,” added Seneviratne.
Rewarding current affairs
Panelists all concurred that reality shows should be rewarded more with gongs such as BAFTAs, with Allen criticizing heavily-awarded current affairs shows that “people should be more snobby about.”
“No one bats an eyelid when there’s a current affairs doc about a shocking 3% increase in the death of terrapins,” he joked.
Seneviratne added: “The fact [reality] is not being rewarded is not great. It is important for people to feel they are being equally as respected as a current affairs documentary.”
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