Under the proposed rules, British TV and radio stations would be required to protect the “welfare, wellbeing and dignity” of people who take part in their programmes.
Ofcom also said broadcasters would have to take measures to ensure that members of the public are not “caused unjustified distress or anxiety by taking part in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes”.
The proposals, which have been announced on the same day as the Love Island final, could mean huge changes for the future of reality TV, as well as news and documentaries.
With much of the success of reality TV riding on showing embarrassing footage of contestants and times of emotional difficulty, the proposed rules could mean major changes for the way programmes like Love Island are made, edited and promoted.
Ofcom said its proposals have been developed partly in response to the recent death of a man who appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Reality TV’s regulations and its impact on mental health made headlines earlier this year after the suicide of former Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis in March. Thalassitis was the second participant of the ITV2 show to take their own life, following the death of Sophie Gradon in June 2018.
The watchdog highlighted the thousands of complaints it has received regarding the treatment of Dani Dyer on Love Island, as well as the row between Roxanne Pallett and Ryan Thomas on Big Brother, and between Kim Woodburn and Coleen Nolan on Loose Women.
“There has been growing openness and concern about mental health and wellbeing in recent years,” reads the report. “We have also seen a steady rise in complaints expressing concern about the welfare and wellbeing of people who take part in programmes.”
ITV2 recently announced plans to air two series of Love Island a year, adding a winter edition of the show. The forthcoming series could be one of the first programmes to be affected by Ofcom’s new rules.