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Background Checks and Simon Cowell’s New Red and Black TV Show

  September 9, 2011

A big brouhaha has been going on over in the U.K about a contestant on Simon Cowell's new television game show Red or Black. It all swirls around Nathan Hagemen, Red and Black's first big money winner. As it turns out (after winning the money), Hageman served time in prison for assaulting a woman. That little piece of information subsequently sent Red and Black, a slew of people and the news media into a controversial frenzy. Should Hageman, who has a criminal record, be allowed to keep his prize? Well, the news came that he will keep his prize, but at the same time, British Network ITV (the company that broadcasts the game show) will be tightening its background check policy due to the situation. Further, as a result of the circumstances, three additional contestants have been removed from their show lineup this week.

Should all TV shows that have contestants require them to undergo background checks? That's not for me to answer. But it is a hot topic in both the U.K. and U.S. Take that one step further with all the recent EEOC developments in the U.S. — should a person's past prevent them from future opportunities? If so, where do you draw the line in the sand? Or, once a person has served their time should they be allowed to start over? It's something to think about.

Regardless, television networks and producers may want to take a good look at contestants and make sure they've had a criminal background check before they're allowed to participate. And some definitely do. But not all background checks are the same and gaps can often be overlooked. Just like businesses and organizations, game and reality TV shows have good reasons to conduct background checks and thoroughly examine contestants, especially for liability reasons.

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