The Ethics Factor

I’ve never watched “Strictly”, or “Big Brother”, or “I’m a Celebrity”, so it’s safe to say that I am not a fan of reality shows.  But in the Economist this week I read about one reality show that I would watch religiously, were it broadcast in the UK: “Integrity Idol”.  This show was first put on in Nepal in 2014, and was so popular that the format has been replicated in Pakistan, Mali, Liberia, Nigeria and South Africa.  The AML-ish among you will spot that these are not countries that score highly when it comes to the tackling of corruption, but it seems that the worm may be turning and people are tuning in in huge numbers to watch contestants being rewarded for their, well, integrity.

The format is simple: contestants (who have either applied or are nominated) are whittled down to five finalists, who demonstrate in short videos why they are deserving of being recognised for their honesty.  As you might imagine, some people have a fairly generous definition of integrity; apparently one applicant thought that turning up for work on time made him eligible, while another quickly recused himself when he heard that background checks would be done on him.  The public are then invited to vote for the winner.

Fascinatingly – and I guess this is why the Economist has taken an interest – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has started to measure the impact of the show.  It might make people think more about what integrity is (and therefore what corruption is), or it might demonstrate that the honest can get on in life.  This is certainly the case in Nepal, where the organisers talk of “naming and faming” officials who do the right thing – winners have included a school headmaster, a Chief District Officer and District Education Officer.  As to whether a UK channel might pick it up, I suspect it all rather depends on whether they think they would get enough contestants.

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