OPINION: Reality TV has made 'celebrity' worthless

Thank god it's over. I normally avoid reality TV involving Z-list celebs like the plague but given the acres of coverage devoted to ITV1's money spinning I'm A Celebrity..., I felt honour bound to switch on a couple of times in the name of research.

Admittedly the live coverage on ITV2 proved a remarkably good cure for insomnia, but overall I found the whole exercise profoundly depressing.

It wasn't just the complete lack of intellectual stimulation, but the knowledge that as a result of this tawdry piece of TV, that feminists' nightmare known as Jordan is actually set to net more than £1m in endorsement fees because of her enhanced notoriety.

I'm not surprised. Jordan and her cohorts have done wonders for ITV.

Audiences of 12 million and a 52 per cent audience share are not to be sniffed at. And if Jade Goody, the Big Brother contestant who won fame for her sheer mind-numbing ignorance, can earn a reported £690,000 from media deals alone, then Jordan's rather more obvious assets will no doubt net her a further fortune.

But as a client responsible for signing a fat endorsement cheque, I hope I would have the sense to see beyond Jordan's current luminescence and ask myself what she actually stands for and how these values could relate to and benefit my brand. The answer, as with all too many of today's 'celebrities', isn't necessarily a simple one.

The phenomenon of reality TV has devalued the currency of celebrity by making famous or notorious a whole raft of individuals whose value is based upon their exposure alone. At least I'm A Celebrity has the virtue of playing on some sort of existing fame, and at least some of the individuals are included on the basis of talented, albeit fading careers. Big Brother and its ilk are more invidious, playing on the desperation of the public for their 15 minutes of fame. In such cases, there are no outstanding talents or achievements with which a company or brand can sensibly seek to ally itself, only exposure for the sake of exposure.

There is no telling where the phenomenon will end. Not only have the formats become even more bizarre - think Channel 4's Shattered - but as mm02 chairman David Varney points out in an interview this week, it is only a matter of time before video streaming and mobile technology give everyone the opportunity to create and broadcast their own programmes, manufacturing their own dubious celebrity - at which point the currency of celebrity will have become worthless.

Perhaps only then will companies recognise reality TV participants for what they are and return to valuing, and allying their brands with, those few truly talented individuals who actually deserve fame.

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