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Love Island and Professional Responsibilities



United Kingdom

The BAFTA-winning reality show ‘Love Island’ is back on our screens, generating ITV2’s highest ever viewing figures and thrilling fans as unexpected as George Osbourne.

Amidst the usual string of personal trainers and models, this year’s line-up of singletons included two members of regulated professions who place a high value on acting with integrity and not disparaging the reputation of their professions: Rosie Williams, a newly qualified solicitor, and Alex George, an accident and emergency doctor.  As these professionals 'couple up' and exploit their private lives in the hopes of winning £50,000, could they be opening themselves up to professional investigation and subsequent disciplinary action, unfairly or otherwise?

Rosie is no longer a contestant but Alex remains and will undoubtedly need to resort to what could be seen as sharp practice to stay around. This may not be fair: as Alex points out, he’s worked since the age of 13 to get to where he is today professionally; could this be thrown away in just eight weeks in Majorca? Just as public opinion shapes the competition as the contestants size each other up as potential rivals to be the final winner, perceptions of Rosie and Alex amongst the more conservative members could negatively impact the public's trust in the respective professions. When Rosie and Alex leave the villa, will the SRA and GMC want to remain coupled up with each or could Love Island lead to professional heartache?

Rosie and Alex would do well to remember that the Solicitors Regulation Authority and General Medical Council set out a strict code of conduct for the behaviour and ethics of their members. These principles emphasise the importance of acting with ‘integrity’ in a way which maintains the public’s trust in both the individual and the profession as a whole. Unsurprisingly, they do not mention appearances on reality dating shows nor do they give much more detail on what is and isn't acceptable. As the contestants try to avoid elimination, they will face pressure to engage in manipulative tactics. Alongside any Machiavellian misbehaviour, the contestants’ private, sexual information and behaviour is broadcast daily to millions of viewers and can live online for eternity. Part of the attraction of shows like Love Island is that people sometimes make bad interpersonal choices in that regard without concern for consequences, impact on the others in the group or even the perception amongst those in the public who have more traditional views on the subject. Even in a generous interpretation of the meaning, intentionally deceptive behaviour without regard to its impact can be considered to be far removed from acting with the essential ‘integrity’ and may not justify the public’s trust in them and the profession.

Reality show contestants like Rosie and Alex must take care to ensure that their on-screen personas do not stray too far from their real-life responsibilities otherwise the SRA and GMC could be in touch.  In an analogous setting, we saw this happen last year when contestant Zara Holland faced professional consequences and was stripped of her Miss GB crown. The pageant had felt she was no longer a positive role model and representative following her sexual activity on the show. Was this fair? Not really. Was it surprising? Not really. Contestants can no longer claim they had no idea what happens on a show like Love Island when they auditioned – perhaps their first bad choice was to be there in the first place?

Thanks to Fieldfisher Vacation Scheme Student Sophia Steiger for authoring this article.

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