Talk show host Jeremy Kyle could become the host of a state-sponsored television programme aimed at getting unemployed Britons back into work, after the government entered into preliminary talks with ITV.
Recent high-profile court cases have criticised the confrontational style of Kyle’s show. Last year Manchester District Judge Alan Berg condemned the talk show as a “human form of bear baiting,” after a guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show became the first man to be convicted of assault on a British talk show.
David Stainforth had appeared on the show to describe how Larry Mahoney had an affair with his wife, and proceeded to headbutt Mr Mahoney when an argument broke out on stage.
"It seems to me that the whole purpose of The Jeremy Kyle Show is to effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people who are in some kind of turmoil," said Judge Berg.
"It is for no more and no less than titillating members of the public who have nothing better to do with their mornings than sit and watch this show.”
Shortly after Judge Berg’s comments the government-backed sponsors of The Jeremy Kyle Show, Learndirect, dropped their £400,000 sponsorship of the prorgramme. The Central Office of Information (COI), which deals with the publicity for Whitehall departments, said that it was "no longer appropriate" to be associated with the talk show.
Details of the programme, provisionally named Jeremy Kyle Gets Britain Working, are still being discussed between ITV and a government-appointed media agency. The series would explore how government policies can help those seeking employment, highlighting the role of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
A spokeswoman for the DWP confirmed that the talks are taking place. "We want to use our communications as effectively and efficiently as possible to motivate and support people into work," she said. "We have appointed an agency to explore advertising-funded programming but no decisions have been taken."
Rival political parties have condemned the government’s plan to spend a reported £500,000 of public money on prime-time television slots. "It's a complete scandal that public funds are being wasted on commercial programmes that appear to be little more than political propaganda," said Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats' shadow culture secretary. "Not only is the Labour era of spin alive and well under the Brown government, it's positively thriving. I think many people would have reservations about whether taxpayers' money should be spent boosting Jeremy Kyle's profile."
A report published last week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a social development charity, says that The Jeremy Kyle Show—ostensibly aimed at helping people with their relationship problems—could be viewed as "a rather brutal form of entertainment that is based on derision of the lower-working-class population."
The report, The Media, Poverty and Public Opinion in the UK, criticised programmes such as The Jeremy Kyle Show for presenting the less well-off as “undeserving” objects of ridicule. A contrast was drawn with programmes such as Channel 4's The Secret Millionaire, which was praised for its positive influence.
“Public support for anti-poverty measures is that bit more difficult to achieve when programmes such as The Jeremy Kyle Show continue to present those less fortunate in society as undeserving objects to be used for the purpose of public entertainment," it said.
The report has called for an increased media focus on the causes and consequences of poverty.An ITV spokesman said: "We are always in talks with different parties about potential projects but we would not comment until an idea reaches the commissioning stage."