Damage to reputation. Shows agree that their producers will participate once every three years in voting on the appointment of a three-person dispute resolution panel made up of individuals who are not employed in the production of television. Any participant who is required to sign a contract releasing a show from liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress or false light invasion of privacy has the right to bring complaints to that panel. Shows agree to provide up to three hours of raw footage requested by the complaining participant to the panel. If the panel concludes that the show materially misrepresented the participant's actions or character in a way that tends to substantially damage his or her reputation, the panel may require the show to make available online up to 30 minutes of raw footage that remedies the misrepresentation.To me, that's not enough. What's the point of placing raw footage online which the broadcaster is under no obligation to publicize? Instead, go further: shows should pledge to faithfully and accurately represent the world being filmed, to not air events out of sequence, attach unrelated commentary, or otherwise juxtapose events and images as to misrepresent the experience being filmed. "Reality" should be reality. Heck, why not go further and require a visual timestamp of all footage used to verify the absence of such manipulation?
The problem, of course, is that this makes for less dramatic, less entertaining television. We wouldn't have Joe Millionaire's infamous "slurp slurp gulp" or all sorts of suspiciously well-timed reactions and commentaries from participants. Shows like The Bachelor might collapse if they could not longer hide the ball as to the suitor's known intentions. And to be fair, the reality shows I watch are the competition shows; I don't watch the Housewives/Shore/"celebreality" stuff which requires contrivance and manipulation for its very existence. For those shows, I wonder if more attentiveness on the mental health side is the best for which we can hope.
The great promise of reality tv at its start -- The Real World, early Survivor, even Big Brother -- was that we were watching ordinary people "being real" in unusual situations, not playing to the cameras or being played by them. It'd be nice to take a few steps back in that direction.