Sexual harassment and bullying: Workers claim ‘toxic culture’ in Sky TV’s sports department

A former Sky TV worker claims she was sexually harassed multiple times by colleagues throughout her time with the broadcaster.

Her claim is indirectly supported by four other current and former workers, who told the Herald they believe Sky TV’s sports department is a toxic workplace.

The young woman alleged she was told by a colleague that he wanted to “f***” her, and he could help with her career.

She claimed this wasn’t an isolated incident and that there was ongoing harassment from other men in office during her time there.

Sky chief executive Sophie Molony said it was deeply concerning and disappointing to hear the allegations of inappropriate behaviour, including bullying, sexual harassment and sexist behaviour.

After Herald inquiries, Molony said Sky’s chief people officer was reviewing further options for independent mechanisms for workers to raise matters.

“I am very sorry that members of our Sky team (past and present) have experienced the behaviour you have described, and I encourage them to speak with me or our chief people officer directly or through our confidential processes.”

Misconduct in the media industry has been in the spotlight recently.

A host on a MediaWorks radio show resigned after allegations of sexual harassment and five RNZ workers have been investigated for harassment or sexism.

Newstalk ZB sports broadcaster Martin Devlin was off-air earlier this month following an altercation with a colleague in the newsroom. Parent company NZME last week announced Devlin was off-air again while an independent investigation was carried out. NZME is also the publisher of the Herald.

The Sky worker making the sexual harassment claim, who was in her 20s at the time, alleged she was touched inappropriately by a senior colleague.

She claimed the incident occurred at a bar after a sports event, where she said the heavily intoxicated colleague started touching her thigh and whispering in her ear that he wanted to “f***” her.

As well as this, she said the man told her they could “role play” hosting together and he wanted to “spread her legs”.

During her time at Sky, she said a male co-worker told her that “all” of her male colleagues would sleep with her if they could.

She also claimed that before she had even stepped into the office, she was told that some men were “sharing around” links to her Instagram.

This was confirmed by another worker who was there at the time.

“It just made me feel like kind of uncomfortable because a lot of these men could have been old enough to be my dad.”

General chat in the office was also inappropriate, according to the former worker, who said she would be present while her male colleagues discussed which celebrity they would most want to sleep with.

“It was also the thought of like how am I talked about when I’m not there and especially [after] hearing that … guys were showing my Instagram around to each other in the office before I even started.”

The woman also claimed she was bullied by older female workers.

She said she didn’t go to HR about these issues because at the time it was all she’d ever known, so she thought it was “normal”.

“Especially with just being a woman you put up with stuff like that your whole life.”

Another person who used to work at Sky claimed they were subjected to bullying by a senior manager and that when they raised the issue with HR it was not adequately addressed.

It got to the point where the person claimed they were so anxious they were shaking and didn’t know where to turn for support.

“There was nothing, there was nothing from anyone, except perhaps that I should meet with the person I was having an issue with.”

Senior staff who knew about the issue did “head in sand stuff” said the worker, who believed they ignored the problem.

Multiple sources spoken to by the Herald said they believed Sky Sport workers were too scared to speak up and voice their concerns.

A third person said almost everyone would turn the other way if they saw something wrong for fear of repercussions.

Molony said they had recently increased the ways that staff could speak up if they experienced issues and introduced a confidential speak-up service called Amplify.

“We have also begun a process in our sport production department to identify initiatives that can make our culture even better.”

Another worker said they had witnessed and been subject to bullying and intimidation, which they said had led to an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and mental health issues.

While they believed the new executive team was putting more routes in place for reporting issues, it had come “much too late”.

“People are genuinely terrified.”

The fourth person also said there seemed to be a “boys’ club”, in relation to rugby, and who got to cover the best events.

In response to questions about an alleged “boys’ club” Molony said they would use this and other opportunities to reinforce to their people that this was not acceptable.

“We want our workplace to be one where Sky crew [staff?] can do their best work, and be recognised and rewarded for it; your gender (or race, sexuality or religion) should play no part.”

A fifth person who has worked there told the Herald there was an “undercurrent” of bullying at Sky Sport that had not been addressed until recently.

That person said prior to Molony taking control late last year, there were no mechanisms in place for staff to anonymously approach anyone for advice or assistance.

They said they were also aware of the “boys’ club” at the broadcaster.

All past and present staff members spoken to by the Herald did not want to be named.

Molony said while they were not aware of any allegations against any Sky Sport individuals, they encouraged those impacted to raise it with the company.

She said allegations about bullying would be treated with the utmost care and seriousness.

“Our organisation has recently prioritised our focus on our people, including creating a new role of chief people officer (an executive-level role) and increased investment in the people/HR function.

“Improving our workplace is an ongoing journey, and – like many Kiwi businesses – we are stepping up our efforts to ensure all Sky crew are valued, feel they belong, and can do their best work – regardless of their gender, race, sexuality or religion. We are making good progress but there’s no ‘end point’ when it comes to culture – we will keep on evolving and seeking to be better.”

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