Consumers in New Zealand have demonstrated just how powerful public opinion can be in regards to broadcast media. The latest display of strength from television audiences came when the Kiwi version of X Factor fired its judges in response to viewer consensus that they bullied a contestant.
Judges Natalia Kills and Willy Moon were the subject of many conversations, social media posts and news articles following the live broadcast of X Factor on Sunday, March 15. The controversy began when the two shared their thoughts on contestant Joe Irvine allegedly copying Moon's style "from the hair to the suit", calling him "creepy" and "disgusting". For the full rant, check out the video below:
Immediately after the tirade, audience members took to social media to express their distaste. Within a day, multiple petitions had been set up calling for the sacking of the two judges, with tens of thousands of New Zealanders signing their support via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Influential Kiwis also weighed into the conversation, with All Black rugby players, news presenters and the other X Factor judges all sharing their thoughts.
Those comments were inappropriate and disgraceful.. #xfactornz
— Israel Akuhata Dagg (@izzy_dagg) March 15, 2015
Shame on you Natalia. Shame on you. #xfactornz
— Hilary Barry (@Hilary_Barry) March 15, 2015
There is a time & place for everything. For ME it aint on tv. I am completely against bullying, but fighting fire with fire aint the way.
— Stan Walker (@1stanwalker) March 15, 2015
Even though the show itself was viewed live by fewer than 300,000 people, the YouTube clip of the judges' rant has attracted more than 4 million plays - demonstrating the power of social sharing. Suddenly, even those who had never watched the show before were weighing in on the controversy and creating a strong voice against the judges in question.
Then, the show's executives and network responded to the audience's thoughts and opinions with a strong action. In a statement on March 16, MediaWorks Chief Executive Mark Weldon said the judges had made comments that were completely unacceptable.
"While the judges on X Factor are expected to provide critiques of the performances, we will not tolerate such destructive tirades from any of the judges," he said.
"We no longer have confidence that Kills and Moon are the right people to perform the role of X Factor judges and they will leave the show, effective immediately."
Although not confirmed in the statement, the decision to fire the judges was likely influenced by the massive social media response to the controversy. This shows just how powerful television audiences can be when they pick up on particular topics, which clearly demonstrates the importance of having television monitoring as part of your media tracking strategies.