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Getting camera happy

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39062.693113.59 (Published 14 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1275
  1. Jane Cassidy, freelance journalist, Hertfordshire [email protected]

    Patients who take part in reality shows can end up feeling misrepresented. How can programme makers, patients, doctors, and health charities avoid conflict?

    Health charities, doctors, and patients are badgered on a daily basis by television programme makers desperate to find contributors for an endless stream of health themed shows—but going on screen can sometimes end unhappily.

    Take the case of the Sweeney family, who agreed to be filmed by production company Talkback Thames. The family and the programme makers appear to be totally at odds over the results of their collaboration.

    Motivated by the need to find specialist help for his autistic son, Mr Sweeney persuaded his family to agree to allow cameras into their home for several weeks to film a programme with the working title Families. The resulting show formed part of the latest Teen Tamer series on Channel 5. Titled “Foul-Mouthed and Furious,” it featured 12 year old Michael Sweeney's challenging behaviour, including spitting and swearing. It did not explain that he was autistic.

    “The focus of the programme, …

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