Nine has denied claims that Married At First Sight is promoting a relationship with an ‘excessive amount of domestic abuse’ after more than 12,000 people signed a petition regarding one of the marriages on the show.
The show has received 41 complaints to the Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) this year, four times as many complaints to the ACMA as last season.
Particular criticism has been drawn for the depiction of Melissa Rawson and Bryce Ruthven’s ‘marriage’ on the show. The petition circulating on change.org is titled ‘make the Nine network apologise for failing duty of care’.
The description of the petition says that Rawson and Ruthven’s relationship portrays “an excessive amount of domestic violence (DV) signs which are not being handled by the network appropriately.”
It then goes on to say that there is “a clear failure of duty of care to Melissa during filming of the show, allowing her to remain in a toxic and dangerous environment for the “benefit” of the network.”
Ruthven has been accused by viewers of gaslighting and emotionally manipulating Rawson, and has recieved backlash for rumours of having a ‘secret girlfriend’ outside the show.
He also came under fire last week after kissing fellow contestant Beck on the cheek without consent. She then told KIISFM hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jacki O that “it was one of those moments where I had to bring the contract up to even see what my rights are.”
Nine has now responded to the allegations. John Walsh, Network Executive Producer of MAFS said that:
“The petition in question does not reflect the nature of Bryce and Melissa’s relationship and at no time did Endemol Shine Australia or Nine consider Bryce and Melissa’s relationship to be characterised by domestic violence or the like. If that had been the case we would have intervened immediately.”
“Our first priority in making MAFS is to make sure all the participants feel they are operating in a safe environment. At a briefing of participants prior to commencement of filming, the importance of alerting production if they felt unsafe or uncomfortable with their partners at any time was reinforced. We understand meeting and marrying someone at first sight and living with them for eight weeks can be a potentially daunting experience and we would not persist with a scenario where someone does not feel safe.”
“We have very rigorous processes in place to protect all participants in the experiment. All participants have access to the show psychologist during filming, broadcast and once the program has ended. Nine also provides an additional service for participants should they like or need further individual and confidential psychological support.”
“This service gives participants access to psychologists who have been specifically engaged to support those involved in the program in relation to their experiences. This confidential service is available to all participants for as long as they need.”
B&T understands that the petition has not led to any advertisers withdrawing sponsorship from the show.
Another MAFS contestant has been exposed for making homophobic comments about a fellow cast member. This week, a video from Instagram gained traction when it appeared to show MAFS contestant Jason Engler talking about fellow contestant Liam Cooper – who is bisexual – with homophobic, fatshaming language.
In the video, he is seen with Georgia Fairweather, who is Cooper’s partner on the experiment, and Johnny Balbuziente.
Engler says, “Georgia’s husband is a full-blown homosexual. He’s ugly, he’s chubby, he does not go to the gym.”
Balbuziente then tells him not to post the video, while Fairweather says in the background “I want to keep it for me!”
According to So Dramatic!, the podcast who obtained the video, the original Instagram was posted to Fairweather’s close friends Instagram story.
Engler has since released a statement, which said “I would like to sincerely apologise for my comments in regards to a fellow MAFS participant’s sexuality. After a few too many drinks I made some inappropriate remarks that I am ashamed of and greatly regret. I will learn from this and try to become a better person from this experience.”
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