Seven seeks urgent update from Doctor Blake producers following Craig McLachlan allegations

Seven is seeking an “urgent update” from December Media, the producers of popular television series The Doctor Blake Mysteries, after allegations of sexual harassment and assault against lead actor Craig McLachlan emerged this morning. 

An ongoing joint investigation by Fairfax Media and ABC alleged McLachlan indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied female co-stars.

Seven’s new season of The Doctor Blake Mysteries could be in doubt

McLachlan refuted the allegations by Fairfax Media and the ABC saying they were “all made up” and “baseless”.

The ABC had previously axed The Doctor Blake Mysteries, saying the time was right to bring it to an end. In October, Seven revealed it would save the McLachlan-fronted program, but speculation is now mounting around whether the production will go ahead.

This afternoon, a Seven spokesperson told Mumbrella it took the allegations seriously, but said the company could not comment further as the allegations against McLachlan are a police matter.

“Concerning the upcoming series of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, this is produced by December Media and is in early pre-production funded by Seven and other parties. Seven has sought an urgent update from the producers,” the spokesperson said.

McLachlan is the second high-profile local media personality to be accused of indecent behaviour in two months after veteran journalist Tracey Spicer launched an investigation into the Australian media industry. In late November, Don Burke was accused of sexually harassing a string of female colleagues throughout his career.

Spicer told Mumbrella the reaction to the news this morning has already been huge.

“I’ve received dozens more disclosures already from women who work in the theatre and film area of the entertainment industry. We’ve had a lot of trouble over the past couple of months in encouraging young female actors to talk about what happens in this industry because they are so frightened,” she said.

“A lot of the theatre companies and productions houses are really cracking down and saying if you speak out we’ll sue you for defamation. There’s a lot of very scared young women out there and I hope that this story that we’ve published today and will be broadcast tonight will encourage other women of the entertainment industry to come forth with their stories.”

She noted the women who had accused McLachlan had all taken the right steps in coming forward.

Spicer: Women took all the right steps, and still weren’t taken seriously

“What we proved with the Don Burke story was that once one person comes forward it brings a lot of others out of the woodwork, a lot of women who have been suffering in silence for many many years,” she said.

“With the Craig McLachlan story we knew that there were a lot of women who had allegations and they all took the right steps. They went to see the police, they saw lawyers, they went to the union and still the production company would not do anything about their allegations.”

For Spicer, McLachlan’s story shows how the media can play a “really powerful role” when others don’t take allegations seriously.

“We are working with the police and with lawyers and with the unions. We aren’t working against them. We are allowing them the proper oxygen to allow them to do their work in conjunction with us,” she said.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is currently collaborating with major state theatre companies to create more effective policies to deal with sexual harassment, assault and bullying across the sector.

Spicer said there was a “duty of care” issue that needed to be addressed by the theatre companies, on executive and board levels.

“If they don’t address it, there are going to be some pretty serious lawsuits happening over the next couple of years,” she said.

“I do believe that things are changing but they’re not changing quickly enough. The first response is still to shut these allegations down rather than dealing with them in an appropriate manner, following the policies and procedures that most of these organisations have in place.”

However Spicer does remain optimistic. Since the investigation began federal members of parliament, statutory authorities, CEOs and board members have reached out, asking how they can change the problem, she said.

“As the national convener of Women in Media I’ve never had people of those positions of power come to me before and ask ‘What can we do?’ Usually it’s us going to them and suggesting some ideas so there are about to be some very big changes that take place in this country, belatedly, but I celebrate that,” she said.

But for Spicer, the end result of this investigation goes beyond the media industry. She is hoping to help women across all workplaces in the coming years.

She points to the fundraising currently underway in the US: “You’ve got very wealthy, privileged members of society fundraising so there can be more investigations into workplace sexual harassment for women in the most low-paid roles in the country. That’s what we want to do now.”

When Mumbrella asked Spicer when the next name will be announced, she said there would be no rush.

“Each investigation has taken six to eight weeks because when we do it, we want to do it properly. I would say to people don’t expect there to be some kind of revelation every week but there’s a lot of work that goes into these investigations and we want to do it properly, we don’t want to do it quickly.”

Mumbrella has approached December Media for comment.


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