Com­mis­sion hands down a dose of re­al­ity

Dubbo Photo News - - News Extra - Greg Smart

‘RE­AL­ITY TV’ – noun – for­mu­laic and heav­ily edited tele­vi­sion de­signed to cater for sheeple.

‘Sheeple’ – noun – peo­ple com­pared to sheep in be­ing docile, fool­ish, and/or eas­ily led – re­fer above.

There is no prod­uct so far re­moved from its name and so read­ily lapped up by the pub­lic than re­al­ity TV.

Cook­ing shows, home ren­o­va­tions, ta­lent quests, soul mate searches and tit­il­la­tion fed to a pub­lic seem­ingly will­ing to let this en­ter­tain­ment be por­trayed as ‘re­al­ity’.

Any­one ca­pa­ble of crit­i­cal think­ing knows they are not, and now the law has made a judge­ment that lifts the lid on the re­al­ity TV cha­rade.

A fort­night ago the NSW Com­pen­sa­tion Com­mis­sion ruled that a contestant of a re­al­ity TV show is an em­ployee of the tele­vi­sion net­work and the net­work is li­able to pay a worker’s com­pen­sa­tion claim.

In the 2017 sea­son of the show House Rules, par­tic­i­pant Ni­cole Prince was cast as vil­lain per­sona, and suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal stress and de­pres­sion as a re­sult.

Prince made a Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion claim against Chan­nel Seven for the in­juries she re­ceived, ar­gu­ing the show’s pro­duc­ers ma­nip­u­lated her on­screen be­hav­iour to cast her as the vil­lain, which drew large amounts of hate­ful so­cial me­dia con­tent.

She also ar­gued Chan­nel Seven did not delete vin­dic­tive so­cial me­dia com­ments and vi­o­lated their duty of care as an em­ployer in pro­vid­ing a safe, bul­ly­ing-free work­place.

De­spite con­trol­ling the whole film­ing process, in­clud­ing what she wore, what she was paid, when she worked and where she resided (as well as giv­ing up her nor­mal job), Chan­nel Seven ar­gued Prince was a contestant not an em­ployee, equiv­a­lent to a con­trac­tor, and there­fore not en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion.

The out­come of the claim was de­pen­dent upon Prince prov­ing she was an em­ployee.

The Com­mis­sion de­ter­mined Prince was an ex­clu­sive em­ployee, con­clud­ing Chan­nel Seven de­lib­er­ately ma­nip­u­lated her on­screen ‘hos­tile’ per­sona to suit their agenda, re­fused to pro­vide a bul­ly­ing-free work­place by not delet­ing the so­cial me­dia posts, and Prince bore none of the risks of an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor.

“There is lit­tle doubt the ap­pli­cant (Prince) was placed in a hos­tile and ad­ver­sar­ial en­vi­ron­ment in the course of her em­ploy­ment with the re­spon­dent (Chan­nel Seven),” wrote the Com­mis­sion in their de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Also, “The fail­ure to do so (re­move on­line abuse) rep­re­sents, in my view, a fac­tor to which the ap­pli­cant (Prince) has re­acted and which has con­trib­uted to her in­jury.”

Of course, it could be ar­gued that Prince should have known what she was get­ting her­self in for by agree­ing to ap­pear on the show in the first place. Ap­pear­ing on a re­al­ity TV show is seen as a short­cut to fame and riches in our celebrity-ob­sessed so­ci­ety.

But that does not ab­solve Chan­nel Seven by any means.

Eye­balls on screens, prod­uct place­ment and ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue, so­cial me­dia likes and click­bait in the guise of ‘en­ter­tain­ment’ for the flock, demon­strate the in­sa­tiable ap­petite of the au­di­ence and mo­ti­vates the com­mer­cial chan­nels in their search for supremacy in the rat­ings wars.

The Com­mis­sion’s ex­am­i­na­tion of this show for­mat con­firms what the un­crit­i­cal view­ers ig­nore – vari­a­tion af­ter vari­a­tion of man­u­fac­tured twists and turns, and con­fected con­flict de­signed to ap­peal to the basest of hu­man in­stincts, pro­vides un-re­al­ity TV.

The other out­come is the le­gal prece­dent this de­ter­mi­na­tion has set.

In an ideal world, the threat of lit­i­ga­tion from pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ees and the risk from fu­ture em­ploy­ees will make the whole genre un­vi­able and drive this un­real non­sense from our screens.

AN­OTHER ac­tiv­ity mas­querad­ing as en­ter­tain­ment oc­curs next week with the run­ning of the Mel­bourne Cup.

I’ve writ­ten pre­vi­ously about the Cup – the beau­ti­ful peo­ple in the mar­quees, the lit­ter, shield­ing ter­mi­nal in­juries from the eyes of par­ty­ing pub­lic – and there is noth­ing new to re­port on these fronts.

The re­cent Four Cor­ners ex­pose of con­tin­ued cru­elty in the race­horse ‘dis­posal’ in­dus­try is noth­ing new ei­ther.

This is a com­plex is­sue bur­dened with emo­tion on both sides. Horserac­ing is an in­dus­try and has the strength of money and ‘tra­di­tion’ on its side. An­i­mal wel­fare ad­vo­cates, the gen­eral pub­lic and those like me who have an ex-race­horse as an ex­pen­sive pad­dock pet look at the footage and can’t fathom the cru­elly so care­lessly me­tered out.

The In­dus­try says it can’t be re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pens to a race­horse af­ter it leaves the in­dus­try, and that’s a rea­son­able point. Poor mon­i­tor­ing of the re­spon­si­ble abat­toirs is a prob­lem that re­quires im­me­di­ate re­pair by all rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.

But as the horses bolt around the track next Tues­day, con­sider that these liv­ing breath­ing com­modi­ties of the in­dus­try de­serve bet­ter once they have fin­ished en­ter­tain­ing their ‘con­nec­tions’ and the pun­ters.

And on a side note, I’d be in­ter­ested to know why sec­tions of the govern­ment were quick to con­demn school kids for tak­ing a day off school to protest about cli­mate change, yet the same kids in Vic­to­ria will be given a day off school to cel­e­brate a horse race?

z Greg Smart lives and works in Dubbo, and is a keen ob­server of cur­rent af­fairs.

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