Yesterday radio talent Sam Frost opened up on her HitFM brekkie show addressing a worrying tweet about the impact of online trolls, with a concerning admission she “didn’t want to be here anymore”. Unfortunately this isn’t a lone issue, numerous other people, whether they’re in the public eye or not, are subject to regular online trolling.
In the radio sphere, Meshel Laurie from the Melbourne KIIS brekkie show Matt & Meshel faced a trolling issue recently when two men planted unsavoury comments about her appearance on social media. Laurie called the pair out and, in support of her, Laurie’s fans hit back at the two guys.
While at the time of trolling Laurie wanted to say something to the trolls, she later realised drawing attention to them brought the havoc back to the uncouth duo – a full circle.
“No doubt many of you think they ‘deserved’ everything they got,” she wrote in hindsight on Facebook. “I totally felt that way at the start, but as the balance of power swung my way, which let’s face it, wasn’t far for it to swing, I felt more and more like the bully.”
An article published this time last year in the Financial Times said employees have a duty to protect their staff in the social media space, particularly because maintaining an active online presence is becoming virtually mandatory.
“An employee being trolled, courtesy of business-related social media activity, is no different from an employee being shouted at by a customer in-store,” Magnus Boyd, a partner at law firm Schillings told the Financial Times.
“Employers have a duty to protect their staff and, with proper planning, they can be ready for any eventuality, even the scourge of the online troll.”
Jonny Gifford, research adviser at the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, added: “Employers who knowingly put staff in the line of fire of a stressful experience without adequate support may be found to be complicit in discrimination.”
While the impact can be severe on those copping it – such as Frost’s case – what do the FM radio networks that employee these talents have in place to stop this?
Southern Cross Austereo – the broadcaster of the Hit Network where Frost hosts the brekkie show with Rove McManus – said while they don’t monitor individual social media accounts, they have strict policies in place to ensure all content placed upon the brand’s assets is monitored rigorously for bullying and trolling.
“We recognise that our on-air talent are in the public eye and therefore may be subject to unwanted and unpleasant attention from time to time,” a spokesperson said.
“As part of SCA’s Social Media Policy, we take the management of our social media assets very seriously. This includes how our talent are represented and treated in an online environment.
“All content we place on our social media is moderated rigorously to ensure bullying behaviour, racist comments and/or defamatory comments are not part of the conversation, whether relating directly to our talent or our wider brand communities.
“While we don’t manage our talent’s social media profiles, we do ensure we are monitoring how they are engaged with on their relevant platforms.”
The spokesperson also said they have a 24/7 assistance program for employees which is staffed by psychologists.
“The health and welfare of our people is always a priority and we put in place support and advice on a case by case basis.”
A NOVA Entertainment spokesperson also added they have policies in place to support employees.
Over at the Australian Radio Network (ARN) – the broadcaster of KIIS and GOLD, national people and performance director Marissa Daras said they have a confidential helpline for employees, with annual training on bullying and harassment.
“With regards to policies on trolling, ARN have a social media policy which is governed by APN [the holding company],” she said. “ARN’s digital content producers monitor the website and social media channels and can escalate, comment or in extreme cases, should they deem it appropriate, remove comments.
“With specific regard to on-air talent, all station content directors receive mental health in the workplace training annually to enable them to provide support, as required. They are also supported and guided, where needed, by ARN’s national content director, Duncan Campbell and the people and performance team.”
Radio talent bullied
While the networks have policies designed to support staff who are subjected to online trolling, the talent themselves have different ways of dealing with it.
Speaking at the National Radio Conference in October last year, radio presenters Charli Robinson and Fifi Box said they choose the block and ignore. While Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald is a fan of the ‘name and shame’ scenario – similar to what Laurie did.
AM broadcaster Ben Fordham however spews back a little sarcasm – if someone says something negative or horrible about him, he’ll reply with a ‘why thank you. I couldn’t do this without all your support’ type comment.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, BeyondBlue is an organisation that helps those suffering depression and mental health issues.
Lead image: Sam Frost from Rove & Sam.