Unmasking Safeguarding Concerns: A Deep Dive into Nickelodeon’s ’Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV’

In the wake of Nickelodeon’s documentary "Quiet on Set," Dr. Ali Struthers, from the University of Warwick Law School, delves into the intricate web of regulations surrounding child safety in television programming. As the spotlight shifts towards ensuring the protection of children in the entertainment industry, Dr. Struthers’ insights offer invaluable clarity and guidance.

The documentary, made available to view in the UK from 25 March, explored the "dark side of Kids TV" in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Dr Struthers said "Generally, safeguarding laws about child actors focus on ensuring their safety, wellbeing and protection from exploitation on set. While background checks may not be explicitly mandated for all TV crew members, there are other regulations in place to protect child actors, such as requirements for chaperones."

"In theory, you could have a registered sex offender working as an audio assistant for a TV production, because the child/children should be accompanied by a chaperone."

The documentary exposes a strong emphasis on likability and compatibility in the realm of television production, as they are perceived as crucial elements for garnering further opportunities and advancing one’s career.

"The inherent power dynamics between a child actor and an adult authority figure already tip the scales, further exacerbated by the adult’s control over the primary source of income for the child’s family. Under such circumstances, the reluctance to speak up is heightened, compounding the challenges faced by child actors in voicing their concerns".

During the documentary, Drake Bell discusses the abuse he faced, he talks about how those involved encouraged him to remove his father as his manager and cut ties with him, after becoming suspicious of those working too closely with his teenage son.

"There have been instances where institutions within the television industry have failed to adequately address reports of abuse or protect vulnerable individuals. Failure to implement robust safeguarding measures, properly investigate allegations, or take decisive action against perpetrators can perpetuate a culture of impunity."

"There has been a culture of silence and secrecy surrounding issues of abuse within the entertainment industry. Fear of tarnishing reputations, protecting lucrative projects or preserving the status quo has often overshadowed concerns for the well-being of victims. For example, Jimmy Saville wasn’t exposed until 2012, after his death".

In Drake Bells’ case, the prosecution of Brian Peck was possible because of a confession that Bell obtained himself, at the age of 15.

"Addressing these systemic issues requires a comprehensive approach involving legal reforms, industry-wide accountability mechanisms, cultural shifts, and robust support systems for survivors. It necessitates a commitment from all stakeholders within the television industry to prioritize the safety and welfare of all’individuals, particularly children, and to actively work towards creating a culture of transparency, accountability, and prevention."