Michael Buerk: I’m a Celebrity is “part prison camp, part torture centre”

Last year's stranded celebrity reveals the truth about his time on ITV's reality show, calling it "cruelty with its tongue in its cheek" – but was it really all that bad?

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Deliberate starving, sleep deprivation and a list of “banned” behaviour – Michael Buerk has been re-living his experience on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, and is wondering whether it wasn’t really all so bad.

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The journalist and newsreader appeared in 2014’s series, he admits, because ITV paid him a “a lot” of money. In the latest issue of Radio Times, he calls the jungle “part prison camp, part torture centre, part laboratory experiment in social anthropology,” adding that the show is “cruelty with its tongue in its cheek, staged at vast expense (and huge profit) for the amusement of millions.”

Buerk admits that “the ITV people were kindness itself, when they weren’t actually torturing me,” and even jokes that his fellow camp mates weren’t all bad once they got to know each other.

However, “They starved us – quite deliberately,” while the production crew were “fed like kings”. The list of banned behaviour he was given by executive producers before the series aired included “nonconsensual touching”, bullying and “harming the wildlife”, but he reveals it was made clear that there was “no problem” with nudity (“in a nonsexual context”) and sexual behaviour “that is reciprocated”.

Now that he knows the truth, does he regret his time in the jungle? “After half a century on television I’ve found myself famous overnight,” he says. “I have landed on Planet Fame – become something, someone, I have long affected to despise.

“Even worse, I am quite enjoying it.”

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Read Michael Buerk’s full I’m a Celebrity column in the latest issue of Radio Times, available in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday 10th November