Last week The Jeremy Kyle Show was branded as
a human form of bear-baiting by District Judge Alan Berg. He is probably quite right. I say “probably”, because I have not actually sat down and watched a full episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show. The man’s demeanour is enough to put you off after just a few seconds.
I was going to say that it is not a surprise that The Jeremy Kyle Show should be compared to bear-baiting. Modern-day freakshow is how I usually describe these programmes. The predecessors to Jeremy Kyle (Trisha and Vanessa) were mostly the same. Some — interestingly enough, mostly the American ones — can be sympathetic to the programme’s participants. But Tampon Teabag’s summary suggests that Jeremy Kyle is by far the most despicable example of the genre.
Most of the time these programmes pluck out the most grotesque failures of humanity and plonk them under the spotlight for the rest of the nation to point and laugh at. I suspect the main reason for these programmes’ success is that it allows the utter failures that watch daytime television feel slightly better about themselves.
For me, though, the interesting aspect of this story is the fact that the programme’s sponsors only felt the need to pull out of the deal after District Judge Berg made his comments. Some are revelling in the fact that it was a publicly-funded organisation — Ufi’s Learndirect.
But let us be fair here. Most of Learndirect’s target audience probably watches Jeremy Kyle, because it is a programme for thick economically inactive people. So this was probably the most cost-effective way to get their message out.
But it’s the hypocrisy that gets me about it. Ufi’s response has basically been: “What? You mean to say that The Jeremy Kyle Show is a modern-day equivalent of cock fighting, but with chavs instead of cocks? I am shocked, just shocked!” Nobody who has seen these programmes before should be so surprised.
The real reason Ufi have pulled out is, of course, because the spotlight turned to them. The same happened when Carphone Warehouse pulled out of sponsoring Celebrity Big Brother in the wake of the Shilpa Shetty / Jade Goody controversy. They said they pulled out because they couldn’t condone racism. So did this mean that they took the blame for all of the other bad behaviour that went on in the Big Brother house in years gone by?
The same goes for this year’s debates about “trust in TV”. Hypocrisy from top to bottom. When it isn’t feigned horror that premium rate phone-in competitions are indeed in existence merely to fleece viewers, it is the Daily Mail treating some set-up shots in Bargain Hunt or Nigella Lawson’s programme as heinous crimes punishable by hanging. That would be the Daily Mail, a newspaper well known for its rigorous honesty and integrity!
Learndirect knew full well what they were sponsoring before Judge Berg made his comments. As Jonathan Calder says, The Jeremy Kyle Show didn’t suddenly become inappropriate because a District Judge said so.
But I don’t think they should have withdrawn their sponsorship. As I said, this was probably the best way to get their message out. I just wish Learndirect would have the honesty to say so.