CBS, “Survivor” introduce new misconduct policies after ‘unprecedented’ season

CBS issued a statement Tuesday (Dec. 17) outlining new procedures targeting inappropriate behavior nearly a week after Survivor contestant Dan Spilo became the first ever castaway to be ejected from the ...
December 18, 2019

CBS issued a statement Tuesday (Dec. 17) outlining new procedures targeting inappropriate behavior nearly a week after Survivor contestant Dan Spilo became the first ever castaway to be ejected from the competition series by the producers and network.

Spilo (pictured) had been accused of inappropriate touching weeks earlier by fellow contestant Kellee Kim, who was subsequently voted off the game. During a Dec. 11 episode, the 48-year-old Los Angeles talent manager was pulled after “a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve another player,” a title card read.

CBS has not commented further on the reasons behind his ejection. People reported Dec. 17, on the eve of Survivor‘s 39th season finale, that Spilo was removed after an incident of inappropriate touching with a female producer, but this has not been confirmed by the network or production company MGM TV.

In a statement to the publication, Spilo apologized to Kim, adding: “I truly regret that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable by my behavior… In my life, I have always tried to treat others with decency, integrity and kindness. I can only hope that my actions in the future can help me to make amends and show me to be the kind of father, husband, colleague and friend that I always aim to be.”

On Dec. 17, Kim tweeted in response: “I truly hope that some of this self reflection is real and that Dan changes his behavior going forward. For me, this statement only underscores the responsibility of CBS and Survivor to take action to prevent anything like this from ever happening again in the future.”

“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,” CBS said in its statement regarding its updated guidelines of conduct. “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.”

For the show’s 40th season, which has already been filmed, CBS added to its pre-production cast orientation “specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior and how to report these issues.”

Producers are reviewing “all elements” of the show for seasons 41 and beyond, including how the players live during and after they are eliminated from the competition.

Survivor will also take steps to “enhance procedures for training, reporting of issues and prohibited forms of game play,” designed to support a “safe environment.”

Those measures include the addition of another on-site professional to provide a confidential means of reporting concerns.

“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 network added.

Cast, producers and production crew on location will undergo new anti-harassment, unconscious bias and sensitivity training.

“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,” CBS stated.

The show will also partner with a third-party “expert” in the field to review the policies and procedures.

CBS Entertainment will develop “appropriate enhanced policies and procedures” equivalent to the new Survivor measures, to be adapted for the network’s other reality programming going forward.

(Photo courtesy CBS Entertainment)

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.