Jade Goody’s former partner believes the Big Brother star would never have made it on to screen if she had been forced to go through the strict new duty of care requirements being placed on reality television producers.
Jeff Brazier said the incoming rules, designed to protect potentially vulnerable contestants following the deaths of former Love Island participants and a guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show, could reduce the diversity of the individuals who appear on screen.
“A Jade would never be given that opportunity again,” he told an audience of programme makers at the Edinburgh television festival. “I wonder whether that will end up with you only choosing secure types for your shows.”
Goody became one of the first major British reality TV stars after appearing on the third series of Big Brother in 2002. After being kicked off a celebrity version of the show for racist comments in 2007, she died two years later of cervical cancer aged 27.
Recently her legacy – and her treatment by mid-2000s British media – has been reexamined in an acclaimed three-part documentary on Channel 4 that looks at how she was portrayed and how she struggled to adapt to overnight fame.
Brazier, who made his own name on reality TV in the 2001 series Shipwrecked, said many famous individuals are driven by a desire to escape troubled childhoods, and new rules will make this harder: “People who are celebrities are people who aspired to be more than what their upbringing provided them with. It’s no coincidence when you look at a lot of celebrities’ backgrounds there’s usually some sort of difficulty that’s made them want more.”
Former Big Brother executive Tim Hincks told the audience that the industry had changed a lot in the twelve years since Goody was allowed to remain on screen after making comments about Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty that provoked a diplomatic row with India: “If you’re doing that show now, there’d be no question that Jade would have left the house. At the time it really wasn’t something we felt was a difficult duty of care issue. Now you would deal with it incredibly quickly.”
Kelly Webb-Lamb, deputy director of programmes at Channel 4, agreed: “There are so many things we’d do differently in terms of how it was made. There are so many red flags about how she was looked after, about how Shilpa was looked after. Instinctively we would all behave differently.”
Although he was interviewed for the Channel 4 documentary, Brazier has not watched it because of the impact it could have on the two children he had with Goody.
“I don’t think that they’re quite ready to watch a large percentage of what has been shown. There’s a lot of really adult themes in there that they’re not going to be able to get their heads around.”
Brazier said he was also concerned about prolonging “the right the media feels they have to Jade’s life and legacy”. He reluctantly agreed to be interviewed after being told the only person representing Goodey’s voice in the programme was her mother Jackiey Budden: “And no one wants to be represented by Jackiey.”