Psychological injuries for reality TV contestants: landmark case

Reality television is a very popular form of entertainment for lots of Australians, but what happens when it comes at a cost to the contestants’ mental health? A recent decision in the NSW Workers Compensation Commission has determined that a contestant was eligible for compensation for psychological injury.

It is well known that producers edit and frame certain contestants, sometimes to be somewhat unpopular, such as the show’s “villain”. However, the impacts of this on the show and after the show may be greater than what many realise, resulting in serious psychological injury.

A contestant on the Australian reality television show “House Rules” recently succeeded in her claim against the Seven Network seeking compensation for a psychological injury, due to the television series. She was edited to be the “villain” or “bully” on the series.

The Seven Network originally did not accept her claim for worker’s compensation, because they did not consider her to be an employee. However, she gave up her time, her employment prior to the show, relocated and engaged in renovations (which was the basis of the show). It was decided that she did indeed provide a service, as an employee. Therefore, she was entitled to make a claim for a worker’s compensation injury arising out of her employment with Seven.

It was found that editing portrayed the contestant in a negative light. Following this, she had been subject to online abuse, been unable to obtain work and had received threats, resulting in fears for her safety. Seven was criticised for its knowledge of the backlash the contestant was experiencing on social media, but not appropriately acting on this.

The decision outlined that her employment, as a contestant on the show, was the main contributing factor to the onset of her psychological injury. The level of whole person impairment is yet to be determined.

Further reading:

NSW Worker’s Compensation

Workplace Psychological Injuries

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