After losing the ratings to Nine for the first time in 12 years, the Seven Network is facing backlash over claims contestants on the 2020 season of My Kitchen Rules were filmed having sex without their knowledge or consent.
When the couple realised a consensual 5am sex act on a couch in their MKR house had been filmed by a camera operator, they insisted the footage be deleted, according to a BuzzFeed News report.
The cameraman reportedly agreed, but the footage was kept and later allegedly shared among other Seven staff at the network’s studios in Sydney’s Eveleigh.
“I had no idea [the cameraman] was there until we spotted him,” one of the contestants in the footage told BuzzFeed. The other person involved declined to comment.
The contestant said that under the MKR contract, anywhere bar the bedroom is a “potential” location for filming but that it was “cheeky” of the cameraman to film them on the couch.
“It destroyed me for months afterwards,” the contestant said.
“Since when has something like this been any sort of priority or even on the topic [for a cooking show]?”
Contacted by The New Daily with questions about the accuracy of the allegations and whether the footage existed and was shared among staff, Seven said it would not comment.
“My Kitchen Rules: The Rivals is a family friendly cooking show broadcast in prime time,” a spokesperson said in a statement to The New Daily.
“All filming was done in accordance with contestant contracts.”
Keen to claw back lost ground after a 2019 when Nine’s Married at First Sight, Lego Masters and The Block dominated reality TV, Seven and new CEO James Warburton have pinned their hopes on a rebadged My Kitchen Rules next year.
The upcoming season was filmed in mid-2019. Contestants are split into two teams led by longtime judge Manu Feildel and regular chef guest Colin Fassnidge, who are seen slapping each other with tea towels in a promo video.
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A production source said in August rumours about the alleged existence of the footage circulated around Seven’s post-production studios.
“It was mainly just the men laughing and discussing the footage,” the source told BuzzFeed.
They added that when someone apparently deleted the footage from the system, “everyone was really upset because people wanted to watch it.”
A month later, the video was found to “cheers in the office”, said the source, who claimed the “poor quality” of the footage and the fact it was shot from behind a railing indicated it was not taken by a stationary house camera.
Seven has had previous woes with reality TV contestants.
In October, a former contestant portrayed as a ‘villain’ on renovation show House Rules in 2017 won a workers’ compensation case against the network for “psychological” injury.
In a landmark ruling, the NSW Workers Compensation Commission found Nicole Prince was legally an employee of Seven, despite her contract with the network explicitly stating there was no employment relationship.
Ms Prince said she had been “harassed and bullied throughout filming” which was “condoned … and even encouraged by the producer”.
The level of compensation to be awarded is yet to be decided.