Love Island is rocked by THIRD death tragedy that could spell the end for controversial ITV2 reality show – after producers were ordered to take more care of its stars
- Former contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26, both committed suicide after appearing on ITV2’s popular reality TV show
- This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes, 60, tweeted that he was ‘shocked beyond belief’ and added: ‘Has to be repercussions for Love Island now surely?’
- Reality shows were already under intense scrutiny after the Jeremy Kyle show was axed after a guest’s suicide and Ofcom introduced strict new rules
Caroline Flack’s tragic death could lead to ITV bosses pulling the plug on Love Island as it follows the suicides of two former contestants of the reality show.
The series has been a massive money spinner and a ratings hit with Flack as the host.
But it was already under intense scrutiny following the suicides of former contestants Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26, with some criticising the show’s aftercare policies.
Flack, 40, was found dead at her London flat today and is also believed to have killed herself.
The latest tragedy will lead to more pressure on ITV to rethink the show’s future and there was immediate speculation about what Flack’s death will mean for the series.
ITV has not yet said whether Love Island will air tomorrow night as scheduled.
An ITV spokeswoman said: ‘Everybody at Love Island and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news. Caroline was a much loved member of the Love Island team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends.’
Sophie Gradon, 32, and Mike Thalassitis, 26, took their own lives after appearing on the show
The last post: A collage of pictures posted by Flack on Thursday to her 2.4million followers, showing her playing with her dog, Ruby
Caroline Flack’s death is the third tragic death to strike Love Island in the past two years
This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes, 60, tweeted: ‘Caroline Flack …. Dear God. Shocked beyond belief. May she have found peace. #Rip
‘Has to be repercussions for Love Island now surely?’
Flack’s death follows the suicides of 2017 contestant Mike who was found dead in a park near his north London home in March last year and Sophie, who took part in 2016, who died in June 2018 after struggling with depression.
Her body was found at her home in Ponteland, Northumberland, by her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, who killed himself 20 days later.
MPs launched an inquiry into reality TV shows last May after The Jeremy Kyle Show was permanently axed by ITV following ‘humiliated’ father, Steven Dymond’s, suspected suicide after appearing on the show with his former girlfriend.
Mike (left) and Sophie (right) posing in promotional photos for Love Island as contestants
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee announced the probe after Mr Dymond, 63, was found dead at home in Portsmouth.
Scrutiny increased when a number of former guests came forward to criticise the ‘lack of aftercare’ on the programme.
DCMS committee chairman Damian Collins said as the inquiry was launched: ‘There needs to be an independent review of the duty of care TV companies have to participants in reality TV shows and the DCMS select committee has decided to hold an inquiry this summer into these issues.’
But Love Island boss and the chief executive of ITV tried to dismiss fears that the suicides were linked to the show.
She said it was ‘strange’ to link the former contestants’ suicides with the show.
Dame Carolyn McCall, 57, was speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme in July last year as it was announced the show would run for two series in 2020.
Dame Carolyn was asked why Love Island was not being cancelled like The Jeremy Kyle Show.
She said: ‘It wasn’t about that particular thing, it was the circumstances around it.’
She added: ‘I also think that what happened on Love Island, tragic as it is for anyone who takes their life, it’s a terrible thing.
‘Mind and the Samaritans tell the public constantly not to simplify links, and I’m afraid that’s what media does.
‘The two contestants, who were very popular contestants – Sophie and Mike – there was nearly a two-year gap for each of them and they did lots and lots of other things after Love Island, so I think it’s a strange thing for you to bring up to be honest.’
Dame Carolyn went on to explain the decision to provide counselling for the contestants on the show both during and after their appearance.
Since the two Love Island stars’ tragic deaths, ITV has evolved its aftercare policy for Love Island contestants.
Bosses have promised to support the contestants’ families both before and after the show amid recent reality deaths.
Heartbreaking: Sophie, 32, who took part in Love Island in 2016, died in June 2018, her body was found at her home in Northumberland by her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, who killed himself 20 days later (pictured in May 2009)
The ITV2 show has written an extra clause in the stars’ contracts which vows to help the loved-ones of cast mates, as well as the contestants themselves.
In a statement last year, they wrote: ‘The production team have continued to evolve their processes with each series, as the show’s popularity has risen and the social and media attention on Islanders has increased.
Ofcom announced in July that it would implement stringent new guidelines to protect reality TV stars amid a raft of complaints from worried viewers.
The media watchdog proposed new rules to protect participants in TV and radio shows, and to ensure they are properly cared for by broadcasters.
Ofcom cited the 25,322 complaints it received about Celebrity Big Brother in 2018 after Roxanne Pallett claimed that her fellow housemate Ryan Thomas had physically assaulted her.
Most complainants expressed concern about the personal impact on Thomas and others specifically expressed concern about Pallett’s wellbeing.
It also referred to the 7,912 complaints in August 2018 after Kim Woodburn appeared on Loose Women.
The majority of complainants expressed concern that the presenters had humiliated Woodburn and caused her unnecessary distress.
It also cited the 2,644 complaints received in July 2018 about Love Island participant Dani Dyer being shown a video of then-boyfriend Jack Fincham reacting to his former partner entering Casa Amor.
Caroline posted a final series of snaps on Instagram on Thursday with her dog Ruby just two days before she was found dead in her London flat after apparently taking her own life
Caroline Flack has been found dead in her London flat after apparently taking her own life
The regulator said it would add two rules to the existing Broadcasting Code, which would protect the welfare of participants in reality shows, documentaries, news and current affairs, phone-ins, quiz shows, talent contests and other forms of factual and entertainment programmes, but not drama, sitcoms or soaps.
The new rules state that ‘due care must be taken over the welfare, wellbeing and dignity of participants in programmes’.
The second states that ‘participants must not be caused unjustified distress or anxiety by taking part in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes’.
The proposed rules reflect the fact that very different forms and levels of care may be appropriate, depending on the person participating, a programme’s format and the nature of the participation, Ofcom said.
The watchdog added that it wishes to ensure that the proposed new rules do not make programmes less likely to feature people with vulnerabilities, as there is a public interest in their representation.
Tony Close, Ofcom’s director of content standards, said: ‘People who take part in TV and radio shows must be properly looked after by broadcasters, and these rules would ensure that happens.
‘These new safeguards must be effective. So we’re listening carefully to programme participants, broadcasters, producers and psychologists before we finalise them.’
A TV series called The Surjury, featuring Flack as the host, will no longer air on Channel 4, the broadcaster said.
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: ‘We are shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news about Caroline Flack. Our deepest sympathies go out to Caroline’s family and friends.
‘Under the circumstances, we have decided not to broadcast The Surjury.’
The presenter announced she was set to host the controversial show back in October, which was expected to see young people convince a jury of peers and experts to approve of their life-changing operations.
Aftercare: Since the two stars’ tragic deaths, ITV has evolved its aftercare policy for Love Island contestants (late Love Island star Mike pictured in October 2018)
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