Channel Nine told The Wash on Tuesday that they ‘immediately took steps’ to remove Married At First Sight groom Simon Blackburn from the new season after becoming aware of his vile social media content.
The only problem with this? He’d already made it through the lengthy application process, filmed his wedding and been on honeymoon with his new ‘wife’ before they discovered his very public posts, which are still online and available for anybody to see as we type this.
According to Daily Mail, producers only found his disgusting content after his match on the show became ‘uncomfortable’ around him and did her own research – and she then alerted them to it.
Which raises the question: what background checks do producers Endemol Shine Australia and Channel Nine have in place during casting?
We asked six former participants this question on Wednesday, and this is what they told us:
Clare Verrall (season 2, 2016)
‘We had to do a full police check, medical and STD check. Come to think of it no one checked my ID. They asked for my Facebook and Instagram details. It’s been 6 years since my stint on MAFS. I see a psychologist fortnightly and it still triggers me so much. I had a little tear when I watched those videos [of Simon] … I hate that it still affects me.’
Dean Wells (season 5, 2018)
‘I can’t verify it too well as it was a few years back, but I can verify it was loose as hell and seemed very rushed. I’m pretty sure I never had any kind of background check. I do not have any criminal record but I was shocked at how loose it was. I never showed them I.D for example. I could’ve been anyone.’
Tracey Jewel (season 5, 2018)
‘We definitely had to sign off for them to do a police check, whether they actually did it or not – who knows. We certainly didn’t need to give over our social links until two weeks into filming, which is when we handed over our accounts to [the show’s] social media team. So it wasn’t done as part of the background check, at all. We needed clearance from a doctor to participant in the show too, and that was pretty much it.’
Davina Rankin (season 5, 2018)
‘Funnily enough I got asked via Instagram and then just went in for an interview and got the gig.. I didn’t even apply. Off the top of my head I think in the paperwork we had to answer if we’ve had any criminal charges or anything but whether they did an official check I wouldn’t know. But yep, [I went from the] interview to the wedding. All my socials are public so I’m sure they would have sussed me out.’
Samantha Harvey (season 8, 2020)
‘I recall the entire process. My TikTok was brought up on my socials check by their “social media team” – and so was an old account I use to have on Instagram, which I deleted years before the show. Everything was checked about me down to a blood test for STI’s – I had police checks, all ID forms sent in and my entire web foot print brought up including my past post before the show about mental health and my children. This man (Simon) didn’t slip through the cracks, I don’t believe that one bit.’
Bryce Ruthven (season 8, 2020)
‘They don’t so much check your background as such, they’re more interested in finding out your personality traits and styles on questionnaires. They definitely did an ID check, I had to email in a scanned copy of my licence and passport, then when I met [producers] in Sydney they also took another copy of both. We all had to do a full medical including all sexual health testing too. They definitely do a check on your social media history, after filming our bucks night, the following day we had a meeting/run down day of what was ahead of us for the next 6 months with filming and once the show is on TV.
‘The Nine and Endemol social media teams had already run a background check on all our socials and flagged some content that would considered a target for online/public distaste. It was up to us whether we chose to delete it, I know I only had one thing that was deleted which was an old radio video and that was it. I sat down for a meeting with the Endemol lawyer to go over anything that may potentially come up that may portray the show in a negative light.’
In conclusion, going simply off these six responses, it appears that the checks became more thorough as each season passed – and although the process has always been in-depth, it may be rushed if it’s a last minute casting?
Despite this, it seems crazy that Simon’s content was not found, when people like Samantha had their entire web footprint brought up?
The Wash has contacted Nine for comment.