Dutch broadcaster ditches Love Island-style shows amid claims they ‘encourage sexual harassment’

Seduction-based reality TV shows similar to Love Island have been suspended by a Netherlands broadcaster, after accusations the programmes are unacceptable in the Me Too era and encourage sexual harassment.

RTL cancelled The Villa and Temptation Island after two separate night time scenes involving men pressing unwanted advances on women. 

The commercial broadcaster announced a halt on programmes “in which sexual seduction plays the leading role” after the incidents caused outrage in the Netherlands. 

In The Villa eight single people go on holiday in a Spanish mansion and a computer predicts who would make a good couple and matches them. The show is notorious for its drink-fuelled parties. 

Two men accosted women in their bedrooms at night in two separate incidents. Despite their advances being rejected, the men continue to cuddle and kiss the women. 

One puts his hand on the woman’s behind and pulls back her underwear to expose her buttock before climbing on top of her in a scene broadcast to jaunty music. He is later interviewed and makes light of the situation. 

After the scenes were broadcast RTL carried out an internal investigation. The channel accused production company Blue Circle, which has apologised, of encouraging contestants to engage in sexually transgressive behaviour. 

“We were shocked to death,” RTL programme director Peter van der Vorst told the de Volkskrant newspaper. 

“Alcohol was involved in the process and certain assignments were given to which even the candidate asked, ‘doesn’t this go too far?”.

Mr van der Vorst said the makers had gone beyond their “ethical limits”. Without giving details of the assignments, Mr van der Vorst offered the candidates his apologies. 

“Things have happened that do not belong in such a programme,” he told the RTL Nieuws channel.

Two RTL employees were suspended after the internal investigation. A further independent probe commissioned by the channel is underway to see if other unacceptable behaviour was edited out of the programme. 

“Sexual transgression is unacceptable and should never be promoted in front or behind the scenes,” Mr van der Vorst said, as he explained the decision to take the The Villa off air with immediate effect. 

The decision to cancel the programme will have cost hundreds of thousands of euros, media experts said. They said that RT’s failure to prevent the scenes being broadcast reflected badly on the station.  

Love Island, which is not currently broadcasting in Holland, sees young, attractive contestants form couples. It is not one of the programmes suspended. 


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Love Island is hugely popular in Britain, where it is shown on ITV2. The Dutch version attracted 600,000 viewers and more than 200,000 more who watched on catch-up TV this year. 

Tina Nijkamp is former programme director of commercial broadcaster SBS6. “These kind of programmes no longer fit in the era of #MeToo. I was already surprised that RTL had ordered even more of such programmes.”

Fons von Westerloo, a former chief of RTL and SBS, told De Volkskrant action had to be taken. 

“I find RTL extremely naive when they say they are so shocked. They need to know that these kind of programmes provoke such behaviour. It’s the crazier, the better,” he said. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that reality TV shows owed a duty of care to contestants after the death of former Love Island star Mike Thalassitis in March this year. 

A court is investigating the Spanish version of Big Brother for its handling of an alleged sexual assault during filming in 2017.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article’s headline referred to RTL programmes being ‘banned’. They have in fact been suspended by the broadcaster, as the text of the article makes clear. Further, contrary to what the original article said, RTL has not ‘ditched’ or ‘banned’ Love Island; it has suspended some other reality dating shows.

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