Susan Boyle is the latest member of the British public to be catapulted into the limelight on the back of a reality TV show. And it is her unstable and emotional state after the TV show’s finale which has sparked a national debate on just how well these manufactured stars are looked after.
It is true that many of these budding stars are extroverts but there is growing concern over the shy, the introverted and the young. Producers of TV shows such as Big Brother, X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent are facing a barrage of questions about just how well they exercise their duty of care.
So what could this mean for the future? Will contestants be offered media training and psychologists to help them deal with the trappings of fame? And for how long should producers hold contestants’ hands?
There have been reports in the media that these shows might make the application process a little more rigorous, weeding out any problem contestants from the start. Linda Papadopoulos, who has worked as a psychiatrist on Big Brother, does not appear to think this is necessary. She says:
"I don't think certain people shouldn't be allowed to take part in these shows, but different people need different kinds of support - there can't be the same cookie cutter treatment."
Where the success of these shows lies on easy to roll out formats, it will be interesting to see if producers are able to offer such a bespoke level of support.
The debate rages on and it has cast a shadow not only over TV producers but also over the British news media. One well-known TV critic noted that: "the British news media probably have as much responsibility for pressure on the contestants as the show itself."
Even given her current situation, it is unlikely the media will back away from Susan Boyle. For the moment though, she is being cared for in a top London clinic and receiving support and warm wishes from her millions of fans.