Kids exploited by reality TV?

On Sunday night a young girl was brought to tears on national television for the gratification of reality TV audiences. How was this allowed to happen?

The girl, 12-year-old Romy, was auditioning for a place on the new reality television show The Voice Kids. For those who aren’t aware (I wasn’t), it is a singing talent show for Australian children of all ages. Contestants as young as seven have about a minute to perform a song in front of a live studio audience. Four judges listen to the audition with their chairs facing away from the stage, so they can judge the performance based on vocal merit. If they want to give the contestant the thumbs up, thereby offering them a pass into the next phase of the contest, they turn their chairs around to see the child behind the voice.

On Sunday night Romy’s performance of Turning Tables by Adele failed to impress the judges, and the 12-year-old girl burst into tears as she realised she hadn’t been chosen. To their credit the judges were clearly upset that they’d made Romy cry, and they got up onto the stage to comfort her, encouraging her to practice and return next year.

The problem is that Romy’s audition didn’t have to end up on national television. There will be hundreds of auditions which never make it to air. Because she didn’t get through to the next round, there was no reason to show Romy’s audition, except that the producers decided that a young girl bursting into tears would make good television, and it doesn’t hurt that the judges come out looking like the good guys.

So was it appropriate to include the segment in the program’s Sunday broadcast? Who has duty of care in this situation? The producers for choosing to show it, or her parents for letting her enter the contest in the first place? And is it right that children be allowed to participate in reality television at all, given the uncontrollable nature of live television?

You can see some of the other young contestants’ auditions in the following videos:

Molly sings Am I Not Pretty Enough

Sebastian sings When I Was Your Man

Abigail sings Empire State Of Mind