Jeremy Kyle with his wife Carla Jermaine. Photograph: Getty Images.
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When will Jeremy Kyle's day be done?

The Jeremy Kyle Show has been given a slap on the wrist by Ofcom, but will this signal the show's demise? One can dream.

Leah and Kelly are sisters. Kelly, a reformed drug addict, is pregnant. She thinks that her younger sister Leah, 17, and Leah’s boyfriend Matt have been stealing from their mother’s house. If Kelly’s suspicions are proved correct, Leah “will be kicked out of the family for good. It’s a big day for her”. Cue rapturous applause.

So begins the largely typical episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show that was broadcast on 23 September last year. The one anomaly of this particular episode was that it sparked a viewer complaint to Ofcom, which the media regulator upheld. The viewer questioned the validity of the lie detector test, which Leah, a “crackhead slapper” according to her sister, failed. Leah appeared “very distressed”, and Kyle "made comments that clearly reinforced a negative view of the 17-year-old, which at times, rather than limiting her distress, added to it,” said Ofcom. Such comments included the fact that Leah has a “reputation”, and has “slept with 33 men”.

ITV offered support to Leah before, during and after the production process, and at no point did Leah complain about her treatment. But, Ofcom ruled, ITV did not adequately inform viewers of the counselling services that were available to Leah and her family. ITV clarified this, no serious penalties were handed down, and The Jeremy Kyle Show happily trundled along with its eighth series, with “more fiery confrontations and dramatic revelations to come!”.

But what about Leah and Kelly? And what about Steven and Traci? Whose domestic dramas surrounding whether or not Steven was the father of their child, and Traci’s subsequent drug taking and prostitution spawned two appearances on the show within a matter of months? And what about the thousands of other families, fractured and falling apart at the seams, that Jeremy Kyle has been welcoming and bullying  since 2005?

For those of you who are not one of the 1.5 million viewers that the show regularly draws in, it essentially a show that takes poor, mainly white, always working-class families that have suffered any array of domestic breakdowns, and parades them: “Look!” Kyle gleefully sublimes. “These people are dirt! You, we, are better than them! Now let’s applaud their adorable efforts to make something of their paltry lives.” You can even get it written on a T-shirt.

Sadly, however, Kyle’s formula is a winning one. A privately educated, middle-class boy from Berkshire, he has made a fortune out of “human bear-baiting”, as one judge in 2007 called it. By bringing people like Siobhan and Onyx, sisters who haven’t seen each other for nearly 16 years, back together for “one, final confrontation”, or by shouting into the face of Melanie, who is on the show with ex-partner Craig (who has recently served jail time for domestic abuse), “you are not a good mother and you have a drug problem”, Kyle carefully cultivates real life soap operas for your viewing pleasure. The people Kyle vilifies include, but are not limited to: prostitutes, the poor, the unemployed. That final category is ironic, considering that his show is broadcast at 9.25am on weekday mornings and so is viewed primarily by this supposedly demonic underclass. “You’re a drunken bum sponging off the taxpayer and people like you should be put out on the street,” he told 19-year-old Ryan in 2008. Or perhaps on a sofa.

The Ofcom ruling is limited to say the least; ITV only broke one of the regulator’s rules. Standard practices of human decency may be left in shatters, but that is another matter – although disapproving, its business is not in censorship. In an (read: my) ideal world, the nation’s media would be ruled over by a kind of benign dictatorship that would mould our tastes so comprehensively, and feed all our basest desires so benevolently, that shows like Kyle’s would be rendered obsolete. Or, even more ideally, the current system would remain as it is, but just with the absence of Kyle.

But, perhaps there is hope. This is the first time that a complaint about the show that wasn’t related to offensive language has been upheld by Ofcom. Granted, the complaint was primarily questioning the technical effectiveness of the show’s methods, but it has raised a more pressing issue: the welfare of its participants. Sure, counselling is available to people who appear on the show throughout the process, and sure, no one is forced to be ritually humiliated by a smug man in salesman’s suit, but no reasonable person can watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle (at all) and conclude that the men and women screaming tears across the stage have benefitted from the experience. Television companies will always come up with something to satisfy the human appetite for schadenfreude. But perhaps now that Ofcom, an independent regulator, has ruled that “the humiliation and distress of the 17-year-old” is “potentially offensive” (strong words indeed), Kyle might feel the pricklings of a conscience growing somewhere in his central control system. Evolution would be a wonderful thing.

Amy Hawkins is a student at the University of Cambridge and deputy editor of Varsity, the student newspaper. Follow her on Twitter @DHawkins93.

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war