Research Ngā Rangahau

The Real Deal: Experiences of and Attitudes towards Reality TV, 2011

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The Real Deal: Experiences of and Attitudes towards Reality TV PDF (246.85 KB)

Date published: September 2011

Research Company: Mobius Research and Strategy

Scope and Methodology

  • Qualitative project exploring expectations viewers have of reality programmes (ie. reality programmes where people had not agreed, up front, to take part) and experiences of participants 'caught up' in filming of these programmes
  • 20 one-on-one interviews with participants
  • Four focus groups (regular viewers of reality programmes) in Auckland

Responses by Viewers

  • Reality programmes of this nature are primarily seen as entertainment by viewers. However, they also function to provide information or to educate.
  • There is a degree of confusion among members of the public concerning issues of privacy (ie. the rights of the public when they are filmed and if that footage is broadcast) and some relates to the rights of the producer or broadcaster of the programme (ie, their rights to film and broadcast).
  • This is especially true when filming takes place in a public place and, there even was confusion over what constitutes a ‘public place’.
  • Viewers recognise that filming by hidden camera carries an extra degree of risk to the subjects. Viewers are able to weigh the public interest in broadcasting hidden camera footage.
  • There were mixed views on whether pixellisation should be used to disguise the identities of those filmed, some felt it was a good thing, some felt it was unnecessary, especially if someone was ‘guilty’.

Responses by Participants

  • As with viewers, there was a degree of confusion and lack of knowledge amongst participants about their rights to privacy.
  • This primarily relates the rights around filming (both overtly and covertly) and whether the footage could be broadcast without their consent.
  • It is preferable if participants are aware of the probability or even possibility of being on television.
  • Clear efforts are made to ensure no participants are ‘surprised by the broadcast and the BSA encourages these efforts to be as exhaustive as possible.


  • For the BSA the key recommendation is that the public would be well served by clear, accessible information about the issues raised by this report, particularly around rights to privacy, filming and broadcast.