CBS is instituting some key changes to Survivor in the wake of its controversial handling of sexual harassment allegations against a contestant in Season 39. In a statement provided to TV Guide, the network said it bears responsibility for the "final outcome of the season" and is "determined to do better going forward," including instituting new guidelines and procedures regarding proper behavior on set in future seasons.
Survivor recently took the unprecedented step of removing contestant Dan Spilo from Island of the Idols ahead of the finale, citing an off-camera incident that reportedly did not involve another player. Spilo had previously been accused of inappropriate touching by fellow contestant Kellee Kim. Although producers stepped in to support Kim when she objected to Spilo's behavior during the episode, and an on-screen disclaimer revealed that contestants were also counseled about personal boundaries, Kim was later eliminated, while Spilo had remained in the competition.
Audiences criticized the show for its handling of Kim's complaints, and Survivor host Jeff Probst subsequently promised that the long-running reality series would take steps to 'learn from' the situation.
Now, CBS is revealing some of the specific steps that will be taken on the show moving forward. For Season 40, which has already been filmed, the network said it "added to its pre-production cast orientation specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior, and how to report these issues."
For future seasons, CBS states that "the producers are reviewing all elements of the show to further support appropriate interaction, including how the players live during, as well as after they are eliminated from, the competition." The show will also hire an on-site professional to allow for confidential reporting of contestant concerns and will "enhance its pre-production orientation with new anti-harassment, unconscious bias, and sensitivity training for cast, producers, and production crew on location." Additionally, a new rule will be added to gameplay forbidding unwanted physical contact, harassment, and impermissible bias, along with other measures.
Read the full statement from CBS below.
Season 39 of Survivor has been unprecedented for all of us, with important social issues and inappropriate individual behavior intersecting with game play in complex ways that we've never seen before. During the course of the production, we listened to the players intently, investigated responsibly and responded accordingly, including taking the unprecedented step of removing a player from the game.
At the same time, we are responsible for the final outcome of this season. We recognize there are things we could have done differently, and we are determined to do better going forward.
Survivor has a 20-year track record of a strong support system on locations and after production. It is also a show that continues to evolve, as we respond to what we learn from every new situation and every player. We will take the important lessons we learned from this season and adopt new protocols and procedures for future seasons, to ensure that the events that occurred this season are not repeated.
For Season 40, which has already filmed, the show added to its pre-production cast orientation specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior, and how to report these issues.
For Seasons 41 and beyond, the producers are reviewing all elements of the show to further support appropriate interaction, including how the players live during, as well as after they are eliminated from, the competition.
The show will also take additional steps to enhance procedures for training, reporting of issues and prohibited forms of game play. The new measures to further support a safe environment include but are not limited to the following:
The production will add another on-site professional to provide a confidential means of reporting any concerns, so that the production can address them promptly apart from the game. The full range of reporting processes will be communicated clearly to the players during pre-production orientation. The new executive will add to a support system that already makes mental health providers available to players on location and after they leave the island.
The show will enhance its pre-production orientation with new anti-harassment, unconscious bias and sensitivity training for cast, producers and production crew on location.
A new rule will be implemented stating unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment and impermissible biases cannot be brought into the competition and will not be permitted as part of gameplay. This will be covered in the cast orientation for each season, along with clear instructions on how to report violations.
The show will also partner with a third-party expert in the field to review, evolve or add to these new policies and procedures going forward.
In addition, CBS Entertainment will develop appropriate enhanced policies and procedures equivalent to the new Survivor measures and adapt them for the network's other reality programming going forward.
Survivor: Island of the Idols airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)