The suicide of a doctor on a hit French reality TV show sparked shock on Tuesday, with some blaming media pressure for his death while others urged restrictions on reality programmes.
Thierry Costa, a physician on “Koh Lanta” — the French version of “Survivor” — killed himself Monday in Cambodia just over a week after a candidate died on set, citing “unfair accusations” against him in the media.
“I hope the witnesses and websites that published these horrors about the Koh Lanta doctor had a bad night,” @Sarah_IC said on Twitter, one of many who blamed sites and social networks for spreading misinformation about the candidate’s death.
The candidate — 25-year-old Gerald Babin — died of a heart attack on the first day of filming on the tropical island of Koh Rong on March 22, prompting French broadcaster TF1 to axe the show’s 2013 season, its 16th.
His death on March 22 — the first in any French reality TV programme — sparked questions about the way the show was run, and Costa was at the receiving end of accusations he failed to do his job properly.
One widely used anonymous witness statement published on popular website Arret sur Images had questioned his handling of the candidate’s death.
“Koh Lanta” production firm Adventure Line Productions, meanwhile, has lodged an official complaint for “slander” over the statement.
The two deaths have also sparked a wider debate in France over reality TV shows, which are hugely popular but are sniffed at by most opinion-makers.
In a Tuesday interview in Le Parisien newspaper, Jeremie Assous — the lawyer for Babin’s family — hit out at what he said were “many labour code breaches but also breaches in hygiene and security rules” in TV reality shows.
Meanwhile Francoise Laborde — a journalist and member of state media regulator Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel — suggested that reality shows needed to be better monitored.
“We could require them to use a psychologist” who would monitor the mental health of reality TV participants during and after filming, she said on Europe 1 radio.
French authorities have already opened a preliminary enquiry into “involuntary homicide” to determine the cause of Babin’s death, although the Cambodian authorities have determined that Babin died of natural causes.
According to judicial sources, videos shot while the television programme was being made will be handed over to police on Tuesday, to help with the investigation.