Why the media watchdog received complaints about MAFS

Marni Dixit
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has received numerous complaints about this year's season of Married At First Sight with concerns being raised for the welfare of contestants as well as for the classification of the show.

ACMA is an independent government body that uses legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice to monitor broadcasting, radio communications, telecommunications and online content.

The media watchdog has received complaints about this year's season of MAFS with concerns being raised for the welfare of contestants as well as for the classification of the show. Photo: Nine

According to Confidential, a spokesperson for the media watchdog said: "Under the co-regulatory system, the ACMA will refer complainants to the broadcaster in the first instance."

"If the complainant does not receive a response from the broadcaster within 60 days, or is not satisfied with the response, they may refer their complaint to the ACMA.

"Married At First Sight is a classified program. Some complaints have been about whether the program had been accurately classified. The ACMA has also received complaints expressing concern for the welfare of the contestants on the program."

Channel Nine's head of content, production and development, Adrian Swift, told The Australian last year that the show had gone too far for the network.

“The brilliance of the producing in MAFS is that we managed to keep up with those f***ers (the contestants)."

“They do things that we would not even conceive of. They come up with storylines that we haven’t even thought of, and the problem we have, and you’ve seen it this year, is it went to places that we thought were just a bit tawdry, and we didn’t want it to go there.”

The show has been accused of setting a bad example for young viewers with Mr Swift adding, "Our guiding principle is that we don’t make anything happen, but the corollary of that is if something does happen we can’t excuse it from the show."

Poppy Jenkins revealed the Channel Nine and Endemol Shine ignored her when she told them she was uncomfortable being around her 'husband' Luke Eglin. Photo: Nine

Episodes that featured adult themes this year were classified under either Parental Guidance (PG) and Mature (M).

One storyline this year was so alarming that contestant Poppy Jenkins has said she will explore legal options against the network.

Another scene that was deemed to have gone too far was when David Cannon used 'wife' Hayley Vernon's toothbrush to clean the toilet, before replacing it so she would use it.

More recently, Natasha Spencer, from this year’s season, told Yahoo Lifestyle that she was hospitalised following the finale due to fears she would self-harm.

MAFS's Natasha revealed recently she was hospitalised following the finale due to fears she would harm herself. Photo: Nine

“After the dinner party [aired] I actually got taken to the hospital under mental health Section 22,” Natasha revealed.

“I was held in fear that I was a harm to myself.”

Natasha was taken to hospital after police were called, involuntarily admitted under Section 22 of the Mental Health Act.

Section 22 involves a person law enforcement admitting an individual to a mental health facility for treatment without the need for their consent, out of fear they will do harm to themselves or others.

She says it was ultimately a combination of factors that led to the emergency ward, but places the majority of the blame squarely on both the trolling she received and the show’s production.

“I had people telling me to ‘go neck myself’, I had death threats, I was called every name under the sun,” she says.

“It was a lack of sleep, a lot of abuse, a lot of pressure that just tipped me over the edge.”

“I felt totally alone. I never thought I would get to that point.”

It’s a timely reminder of the potential impacts reality shows and the aftermath online can have on participants.

Natasha told Yahoo Lifestyle she'd "love to see [MAFS] taken off the air." Photo: Instagram/Natasha Spencer

Natasha points to the ever-climbing number of former reality stars we have lost to suicide, most recently Love Island’s Caroline Flack, and says her own experience has compelled her to speak out for change.

“There've been [at least] 37 lives lost to reality TV and I think that the trolling and stuff is hard enough without undergoing the conditions and stuff that Married at First Sight adds,” she says.

“I’d love to see it taken off the air, they’re not there to help people find love. I don’t hear about a lot of other shows’ productions giving as many people as many problems.”

Channel Nine has been contacted for comment.

Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.