The Edge radio station has made an on-air apology for misleading a listener as part of a dating promotion, but is yet to respond to a formal complaint.
"Emily", a 25-year-old teacher, says she was left feeling “disappointed, used and discarded” after finding out two of the men she was set up to date on the Dom, Meg and Randell Breakfast show last month were actually MediaWorks interns using fake names and identities.
Emily answered questions about her personal life and relationship history as part of the promotion. It wasn’t until after the promotion had wrapped up that she found out the real identities of the two final contestants, including the one she chose to date.
The Edge Breakfast host Clinton Randell told listeners this morning that Emily was misled.
“Behind the scenes the producers had arranged a couple of guys, single guys, that worked for our wider company to be contestants. It wasn’t in the spirit of the segment which was actually to help our listener find a genuine connection, so we just wanted to take this chance to apologise to her for being misled and also to all of you listening to this as well.”
Producer Hamish Phipps has taken responsibility for the segment and says the hosts didn’t know the two contestants were interns.
“We set out with the best intentions for this, wanting to find her someone and I made a wrong call by involving people that work for the company. It was something I did without you guys, without Dom, Meg and Randell knowing about so yeah, I would also just like to personally apologise to the woman involved and to our listeners.”
Emily’s mother "Sophie" told 1 NEWS the fallout of the promotion was hard on Emily and the family.
“For them to destroy her self-esteem in such an open and public forum is really hard to live with … it made her feel worthless … I feel like she’s been violated in a way.”
She made a formal complaint to MediaWorks not long after the segment aired in April. An outcome was due yesterday, but MediaWorks has extended the deadline.
“We’re hoping to have a response for the complainant as soon as possible. Our standards committee is considering the recent developments in relation to the broadcast and has sought an extension in accordance with the Broadcasting Act. We have no further comment to make,” a MediaWorks spokesperson told 1 NEWS.
“It’s almost like they're fobbing us off, getting us to forget about it and move on, and they get to keep going on their merry way, ” Sophie says.
The interns involved in the promotion are still students at the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch. Head of the School Tony Simons says he’ll be meeting with MediaWorks over the incident “shortly”.
“My primary concern was about the interns. They are embarrassed, I think it's fair to say but they've been very complimentary about the way they've been supported.”
“MediaWorks absolutely acknowledges that they have a duty of care towards interns, as do all of our internship providers so I don’t think there’s any dispute about that. We made contact really quickly after this story broke. MediaWorks was very happy to talk to me … we’ll talk through it.”
“We do our very best to prepare our interns for the reality of the industry. For the most part they cope very well generally. They are treated very well as well.”
Media commentator Gavin Ellis says he thinks commercial radio stations need to take a closer look at how it conducts promotions and on-air stunts.
“I think commercial radio in particular needs to look at ‘why are we doing this?’ and if it's simply for ratings and entertainment they should think twice about doing it.”
Sophie and Emily no longer listen to The Edge or other MediaWorks stations.
“People are saying to me ‘that’s what radio stations are like, they do that to people all the time’ and I'm like yeah but we need to stand up and say ‘enough’s enough’. We can't keep treating people like this, especially women and young girls. It’s not fair and it’s not right.”
*Names have been changed
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