Survivor, CBS making significant policy changes after Dan Spilo incidents

Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

After Dan Spilo’s actions saw players mix real-life claims with gameplay, CBS is making changes to personnel policies for Survivor and other reality shows.

For the longest time, it seemed as though there was something holding back the representatives of Survivor from going into even a modicum of detail about what’s been going on in Survivor: Island of the Idols behind the scenes. We have varying reports about the “group talks” producers had with the players, and we only have a report with producer sources.

However, with Dan Spilo now publicly acknowledging he made others feel uncomfortable and the show filming the finale live-to-tape today, CBS and Survivor have now taken more public steps forward in how that have improved their reality TV competition policies when it comes to gameplay, the safety of the players, and how the boundaries to which real-life issues can (and can’t) interact with the game.

The statement comes from EW, which begins with some history re-writing about how these types of Island of the Idols incidents were unprecedented (Sue Hawk and Ghandia Johnson disagree) and how removing a player from the game hadn’t happened before (Brandon Hantz was all but removed from the game).

What the show and network do that’s promising is to take responsibility for the season’s outcome and how they have changed already and will change. In addition to enhancing training procedures for personnel issues, an on-site professional will be added to Survivor so players can report concerns confidentially. The show will also receive pre-production orientation for “anti-harassment, unconscious bias and sensitivity training for cast, producers and production crew on location.”

A new rule prohibiting “unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment and impermissible biases” from becoming parts of gameplay. These and other policies are said to be in collaboration with a third-party expert to refine or positively sculpt them going forward, and CBS Entertainment will roll them out to other reality shows at the network.

Though it comes short of a proper, profoundly apologetic statement from either the show or the network (we’re still giving production the opportunity to make things right at the finale), should these new policies be hardline kept and enacted going forward, it will make Survivor, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, and other shows much better in the long run.

I can see CBS wanting to ensure as little liability as possible for the actions of its on-screen talent as a reason for this decision, but these new policies, when enacted, should better the understanding of players’, production members’, and the audience’s actions when it comes to establishing a hard line not to cross.

That’s not to say that there will never come a time when that line will be crossed (it will be especially difficult for Big Brother considering the live-to-air nature of the live feeds), but it will enforce the idea of everybody being on the same page when it comes to personal boundaries. It’s sensibility training for a senseless game where players are fighting for a million dollars.

The full statement on EW is a long but necessary read, and I encourage you to check out the complete passage. Production really, really messed up this situation at the moment, but their responsive measures are a good first step towards rectifying what happened.