Big Brother - Nir Kafri - December 2011
The Israeli version of 'Big Brother'. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Daniel Bar-On
Dr. Ilan Rabinovich, the in-house psychologist for 'Big Brother.' Photo by Daniel Bar-On

Channel 2 television operator Keshet is threatening to sue Yedioth Ahronoth for libel over reports that participants in a reality show were given psychiatric medications.

Keshet yesterday demanded an immediate apology from the newspaper and insisted that it halt further reporting on the matter.

In the last few days, the newspaper has been publishing promotional teasers for Friday's paper, citing six contestants in the 2009-2010 season of the Israeli version of "Big Brother" as saying the producers had given them drugs during the filming of the show.

"The reports are another link in a chain of offensive, groundless reports from your paper intended to do damage to Keshet due to business competition, without revealing to your readers the commercial interests behind these reports," Keshet's lawyers wrote to the newspaper. Keshet and Yedioth Ahronoth had been embroiled in separate disputes over competition between the Keshet-sponsored website Mako and Yedioth Ahronoth's website Ynet, and over promoting the Israeli version of "A Star is Born" in the newspaper Israel Hayom.

Keshet reiterated yesterday that the drugs had been given to the reality show participants by Dr. Ilan Rabinovich - the psychiatrist employed by program during its second season - as part of his professional treatment of the participants. The producers were not involved in the act, the franchisee said.

Keshet complained that the teaser headline "Big Brother gave us psychiatric pills" implies that the producers - not the psychiatrist - had distributed the pills to the show's participants.

"This constitutes libel against our client, among other things because Keshet is portrayed as a lawbreaker, giving out prescription drugs for content considerations," the letter states.

"You concealed from the newspaper's readers the fact that any drug distributed to the show's participants was handed out by a qualified doctor," it charges.

Keshet demanded that the Yedioth group refrain from publishing anything else about the matter, including the full story due to be released tomorrow. It also demanded an immediate apology in a prominent section of the newspaper.

Dr. Rabinovich yesterday accused Saar Sheinfine, the only participant quoted in the teasers by name, of airing his grievances in the newspaper because he knows Rabinovich is not free to discuss his treatment, at the instruction of the Medical Association's ethics bureau. Rabinovich spoke on Channel 2, which is financed by franchisees Reshet and Keshet.