ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall has defended Love Island from claims that contestants from a BAME background get “less of a fair ride”.
Her comments came as ITV executives answered questions from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee about reality TV.
On Monday night, Yewande Biala, who is black, was dumped from the ITV2 show after a recoupling.
Responding to a question from committee chairman Damian Collins about whether BAME contestants get “less of a fair ride”, the ITV chief executive said: “I don’t see the evidence for that genuinely and if there was we would take that very seriously.
“I mean if you look at the current show and you look at Yewande and Danny (Williams) and Arabella (Chi), Yewande and Danny had an enormous amount of airtime, in the last two or three episodes as a result of what was going on with them and actually one of the most popular couples at the moment are Michael (Griffiths) and Amber (Gill), who are both from a BAME background”.
Dame Carolyn also faced questions about body diversity, telling MPs: “We do a range of shows as you’ll know, I’m A Celebrity, Saturday Night Takeaway.
“Fremantle do for us X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent.
“Love Island of course we produce. They are very different shows and they show the diversity of Britain, completely including body image.
“So all of those shows have people with a range of shapes and sizes.
“The people on Love island tend to be young, they are healthy, we do a BMI test, they are all within a healthy range of BMI or above.
“And actually if you look at the series now that is ongoing they are not all the same shape, neither the men nor the women, they are variations of shape.”
She added: “Although I absolutely take your point which is they are fit, young, healthy individuals because it is a dating show.
“It’s not I’m A Celebrity which is a range of celebrities of all different shapes and sizes who go on that show, and you’ve seen autism on I’m a Celebrity with Anne Hegerty that was warmly welcomed, you see Lost Voice Guy on Britain’s Got Talent who has cerebral palsy, people were extremely pleased to see that on ITV, so I think it depends on the show.”
She denied that Love Island casting directors are given instructions about physical appearance when searching for contestants, saying: “There’s a very rigorous application and casting process.
“We get about 98,000 applications for Love Island, they then take that down to about 90 to 100 as soon as they get a call back at that stage they go through medical questionnaires, psychological questionnaires, assessments, that then goes down to about 30 or 40 who get selected to appear on Love Island.
“It’s a very rigorous process of screening that goes on before they actually get on to Love island.”
Dame Carolyn said that bringing in Dr Paul Litchfield to advise them on how to improve processes and application screenings has been very helpful.
She added: “He now helps oversee the duty of care processes on Love Island so actually we have changed some of the things that we do as a result of that and actually less people get through to the call back as a result of that.”
Asked by Mr Collins if the show had been contacted by charity UK Anti Doping about the promotion of unrealistic body images in men on the show, she said: “I honestly I do not, I did not receive that letter, the first I saw of that was in a newspaper. I reply to all of my letters and I don’t recall that letter, I have checked.”
She added: “I have asked someone to make contact with them and they have had a conversation. So I will come back to you on that.
“One of the things I would stress is that they all go through testing they are tested for drugs, for steroids for everything. So we don’t have we have no tolerance for the use of any type of drug. And we make that very clear to anyone participating in the show.”