Channel 9 has gone into damage control as viewers called for Married At First Sight expert Mel Schilling to be sacked after a controversial first commitment ceremony.
Annoyed viewers took to social media to complain about Ms Schilling reprimanding Bronson Norrish for calling Ines Basic a “c**t” during Sunday’s episode.
“When you use language like that in relation to a woman, how do you expect her to respond to you? A tip from me to you: Don’t use language like that if you want any chance of a relationship,” Ms Schilling told Bronson.
While Bronson found himself in hot water over his comments Ines did not, despite berating her “husband” throughout their wedding and honeymoon.
On Monday the fan outrage intensified, with a Change.org petition calling for Ms Schilling to be sacked getting more than 30,000 signatures (as of Tuesday morning) and accusing her of a “double standard”.
The petition alleges viewers are getting deleted and blocked on Nine’s social media pages for leaving negative comments about the MAFS expert.
MAFS viewers on Facebook have also made similar claims that they are being blocked on the network’s social media channels for criticising Ms Schilling.
In response to the backlash, Ms Schilling told 9 Honey she was “gender blind” when she gave advice to MAFS contestants.
“Abusive or harmful behaviour is something I’m going to call out whether it’s men or women doing it,” she said.
Ms Schilling also said as an expert she was “not privy” to everything that happened between the couples.
According to Married At First Sight executive producer Tara McWilliams the experts are only present for the initial matchmaking, dinner parties and commitment ceremonies and do not see what else happens on the show.
Nine executive producer John Walsh said he was “shocked at the backlash Mel has received for defending another woman”.
“There were 12 women in the room that night and a man used language that was highly insulting and inflammatory in reference to his wife,” he said in a statement to 9 Honey.
“Mel acted in the only way appropriate by calling out the language — language that is not ever considered acceptable anywhere, anytime.”
A Nine spokesman told news.com.au that any MAFS viewers interacting with the network’s social media accounts “are expected to adhere to the Community Guidelines”.
“These guidelines are available on all of Nine’s social pages. If any follower breaches these guidelines, Nine reserves the right to ‘moderate … block and ban’ users,” the statement said.
The spokesman also added: “We take our duty of care seriously, and vigilant social media moderation is an important part of this. Nine’s social media team act proactively to moderate appropriately.”