By Rory Reynolds
A TOP reality TV guru has slammed Britain’s Got Talent for “manipulating” vulnerable hopefuls like Susan Boyle and Hollie Steel.
Professor David Wilson – a former senior consultant for Big Brother – blasted Britain’s Got Talent, saying that vulnerable contestants Boyle and ten-year-old Hollie should never have been allowed on the show.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival today (Sunday), Wilson said the primetime talent programme had deliberately encouraged Boyle because of her oddball appearance and heaped on pressure before the final.
He said: “I don’t think that Susan Boyle was even able to give proper consent.
“And the producers were not prepared to deal with the global attention she received.”
Speaking at a live debate chaired by BBC presenter Evan Davis, Wilson also hit out at producers for allowing nervous Hollie – who broke down in tears live on TV after a mistake – to perform on the show.
Hollie was allowed to begin her performance again after judge Simon Cowell stepped in to allow her a second chance.
Wilson likened allowing young children and people with learning difficulties to appear on the talent show as “like conning people into buying sub-prime mortgages.”
He said: “It wasn’t right – I think this was highly manipulative.
“It was part of the narrative – can this girl cope with facing the audience in this way?
“We know children aren’t psychologically prepared to do this kind of thing.
“It wasn’t right to expose her to that.”
Wilson – who is investigating the effects of reality TV on children and vulnerable adults – launched the attack after Ant and Dec claimed Boyle’s breakdown and admittance to The Priory wasn’t the programme’s fault.
Sara Geater, CEO of talkbackTHAMES, who produce Britain’s Got Talent, defended the show, saying that they hadn’t misled anyone.
She said: “It wasn’t setting her up – she has a long history of performing on stage and was fully prepared – we don’t mislead anybody.
“We had assigned the same researchers to stick with her the whole time so she had support.
“It would have been much worse if she hadn’t been allowed to sing a second time.”
Another guest involved in the debate, John McVay, Chief Executive of screen association, PACT, added that it is actually illegal to allow children to perform live on television after 7pm.
Geater admitted that allowing the child perform was illegal, but added that “there is a huge anomaly in the law” on allowing children to perform at night on live TV.