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Tackling your debts

Why reality TV may be encouraging irresponsible lending

Posted 08 October 2014 by Kyri Levendi

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Reality television may be guilty of encouraging irresponsible lending - and fictional portrayals of problem debt could also be at fault, according to a new survey.


Coping with a problem debt can be an extremely worrying and isolating experience. You might not have told your partner or members of your family, let alone sought out professional help.


Something that may make this problem feel much worse is seeing reality TV stars borrowing on a whim, or fictional characters living in debt who seem to trivialise what you’re going through.


Irresponsible borrowing

A recent survey* conducted for us revealed that 80% of respondents believe portrayals of lending and debt on TV and in the papers may be responsible for encouraging people to borrow irresponsibly so they can buy things they couldn’t otherwise afford. One way it’s doing this is with reports of celebrities who’ve filed for bankruptcy.


There have been several high profile cases of the (previously) rich and famous filing for bankruptcy in recent years. However, three-quarters of survey respondents feel that these stories trivialise the reality of going bankrupt … which can include having to sell off your home and assets to raise money to pay off your debts, and your credit score being affected for several years.


Reality TV was also highlighted as aggravating problem debt. More than two-thirds of those polled thought that this type of show helped encourage viewers to borrow irresponsibly.

Once upon a time

As well as real people in the media, fictional characters were also found to be fuelling an unrealistic view of living with problem debt. More than two-thirds of survey respondents (69%) felt that these characters helped to trivialise what it’s really like to cope with debt on a day-to-day basis.


A major reason for this is that many fictional characters failed to use credit responsibly, according to three-quarters of those surveyed. This may also be helping to give viewers the wrong attitude about borrowing.


Overall, more than half of the people polled thought that fictional portrayals of those in debt were inaccurate.

A real problem

The most troublesome statistic uncovered by the survey was that a fifth of respondents believed they have a debt problem.


Living with a problem debt can be very difficult. You may not have told anyone and you might not know how you are going to meet your lenders’ requests for money. Having to watch negative stereotypes on the television, or see reports of celebrities seemingly bouncing back immediately despite complaining of a debt problem may make you feel even worse.


However, there is help available. There are sources of expert advice you can turn to and explain your situation, who will be able to provide you with information on what you could do next.


Whatever you choose to do about your problem debt, you don’t have to cope with it alone.


*OnePoll questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over between 12th August and 23rd August 2014, of whom 630 were Scottish.

by Kyri Levendi

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.