Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

Commission hands down a dose of reality

‘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.

Horseracing has money and ‘tradition’ on its side

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?

Greg Smart

By his own admission, Greg Smart was born 40 years old and is in training to be a cranky old man. He spends his time avoiding commercial television and bad coffee.