Viewers complain after disturbing MAFS scenes
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has received various complaints about the latest season of Married At First Sight.
In a statement to Confidential, the media watchdog said complaints range from concerns about classification to the welfare of contestants.
"Under the co-regulatory system, the ACMA will refer complainants to the broadcaster in the first instance," a spokesman said.
"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."
Broadcaster Channel 9 did not respond to a request for comment.
ACMA is an independent government body which monitors the regulation of broadcasting, radiocommunications, telecommunications and online content through legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice.
While ratings remained consistently high this season, peaking at 1.4 million viewers during the finale, last year a Channel 9 employee conceded that the show went too far for a family-friendly network.
"The brilliance of the producing in MAFS is that we managed to keep up with those f***ers (the contestants)," the employee previously told The Australian newspaper.
"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."
Episodes this season included adult themes but were classified under either Parental Guidance (PG) and Mature (M).
One particular storyline was so alarming, that it prompted at least one contestant, Poppy Jennings, to explore legal options against Channel 9.
She claims Channel 9 and production company Endemol Shine ignored her feelings about feeling uncomfortable around her on-screen 'husband' Luke Eglin and then gave her the villain edit.
"[Viewers thought] that I missed my kids when really I just couldn't say what was actually going on, so I had to kind of mask it with that," she said. "You try and speak up about something but there's just no point."
Another disturbing scene saw groom David Cannon use his "wife" Hayley Vernon's toothbrush to scoop excrement from a toilet bowl.
Complaints about the welfare of contestants come after Jennings' co-star Natasha Spencer was rushed to hospital ahead of last week's final reunion episode due to self-harm concerns.
The financial analyst is among a growing list of contestants who all say appearing on the controversial reality show affected their mental health.
"I had a mental breakdown and the police were called to my apartment," Spencer previously said.
"My neighbours called because they were worried I was going to harm myself."
Spencer said vicious trolling led to her hospitalisation. She now suffers from crippling anxiety after enduring a topless video leak and a cheating scandal allegedly involving her former TV "husband" Mikey Pembroke and another bride Stacey Hampton.
Former contestants Tracey Jewel and Clare Verrall both struggle with post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorder after their respective stints on the show.
Former bride Ines Basic previously revealed her own shock diagnosis after she was given the villain edit last season.
"I wasn't well during and after [the show], I think that was obvious but it got even worse last July," she said.
"That's when it was the most brutal time for me and I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. Very scary but I am doing better. It was 110% caused from the show. Nothing normal about the conditions on those sets or what [they] do to you."
Former groom Sean Thomsen claims his depression and struggles with alcoholism worsened after his time on the show after also getting the "villain edit".
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