About media responsibility.

In January 2009, over two years ago now, I wrote a column about a television program in the Netherlands that disgusted me. The title ‘Family Matters’ (not the US comedy) hinted about the topic of the program. It was a reality tv show with an aid worker (experienced because he himself has been a drug addict for many years) who ‘helps’ families in their relationships and family ties. The method for that was cold turkey confrontation and tough. Which in every single show showed people brought to the limits of what they could take before improvement started. I doubted the program, the presenter and the results.

In December 2010 that same presenter got accused by some of his pupils for sexual harrassment and rape. The broadcasting company involved immediately cancelled the show and made the shortest press statement ever. After that they never talked about it. The program makers, director and producer and the production company, went dead silent on the issue at hand.

Some time ago Keith Bakker, the presenter confessed the sexual harrassment and the fact that he had sex with minors at the time the program was filmed in the Netherlands and Spain. He now states he was a sex addict at the time of recording. Which raises eyebrows and questions regarding the involvement of both the broadcasting company (NCRV, a protestant government subsidised broadcasting company) and the production company. Mind you, the shows are still online and can be watched at the public broadcasting viewing website ‘Uitzending Gemist’. Though Keith Bakker is not yet convicted it is clear that he is guilty of what he is accused of. He admitted to the accusations. So now we can all watch a criminal at work by surfing to this website: http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/640656

This is interesting from a media ethical perspective.

First of all I do not understand why the NCRV as a broadcasting company still has the old shows online. Knowing what is been admitted by Bakker it is now known that at least one of the girls in the shows recorded in Spain is in fact a victim of Keith Bakker who was – as he said so himself – acting as a sex addicted predator at the time of recording.

Secondly I do wonder how it is possible that the production team and production company were not aware of the abuse that was taking place under their very eyes. Some people in that team must have seen or heard things. Simply because in a reality tv show that is about very personal problems it is impossible to have sexual harrassment to go unnoticed. So where are these people now? Where is that production company? Well, the production company Strix Television, a Swedish company, is staying under the radar and keeping quiet about the ‘incidents’. They still, just like the NCRV, list the show on their websites. Where the NCRV made a press statement in December 2010, Strix has kept silent.

My conclusion of the behaviour of both the broadcasting company and production company is that when media organizations are being confronted with a disaster concerning their program, even if that disaster has social relevance, they simply try to back off as fast as possible and duck for any responsibility by bringing that show to the screen. Only recently the unlawful filming of hopital patients by another production company in the Netherlands resulted in the withdrawal of that program from the screen but is also resulting in a big financial claim by those companies to the hospital. How blunt can people be? But in the Family Matters case the program actually gave Keith Bakker the opportunity to act as predator on vulnerable young girls while the show was made. As he stated himself it was in that timeframe (2009 / 2010) that he had completely lost track and was in fact a sex addict. Obviously the screening and guidance by both the boradcasting company as the production company in regard to Keith Bakker have failed dramatically. With the side effect of young girls that were in a difficult position being harmed. No they will not face a judge but it would be a good thing if they at least would acknowledge responsibility for giving a platform to Keith Bakker to commit his crimes. Unknowingly at first and probably naive. But nevertheless, moral responsibiliy comes when starting the making of this kind of programs and does not end when the presenter goes to jail.

Because looking back at any of the shows it is impossible to hear Keith Bakker making statements that he is proud of his pupils and giving advice to youngsters, also on their sexuality, without being utterly disgusted.

Today, the district attorneys office will make public what punishment they require for Keith Bakker. The NCRV and Strix are not accused and are not requested to give statements on their facilitating role and poor judgement. That is for the public to decide.

Alice © 2012