Byron Bay: Calls for Netflix boycott over reality show plans

·3 min read
Byron Bay beach
Netflix described Byron Bay as the "perfect setting" for its new Australian reality show

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for a boycott of a proposed Netflix reality show to be set in the Australian beach town of Byron Bay.

Anger has erupted in the community over the planned influencer-led series titled Byron Baes.

The petition, which calls for a filming ban, argues the town will be used as a "punch line" for the show.

Some businesses have refused to take part in the show, local media report.

The picturesque town on the New South Wales north coast is known for its surf beaches and relaxed lifestyle. It has gained prominence in influencer culture and over the past year, has also become a mecca for visiting Hollywood stars.

Unveiling plans for the series last month, Netflix said: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that an influencer in possession of a good follower count must be in want of a beach backdrop.⁣

"And there's no better backdrop - or magnet for influencers - than Byron Bay, the perfect setting for our next Australian Netflix Original."

It said the "docu-soap" would follow "hot Instagrammers living their best lives".

The plans have been met with frustration.

"It's a multinational company trying to exploit the town's name when the community doesn't want it and think they can just come in and use us as a commodity," local musician Ben Gordon, who owns cafe The Byron Bay General Store, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Locals are unhappy with the perception of Byron Bay that has grown in some parts of the media.

They claim an unrealistic view of the town has emerged via social media, a glossy portrayal that doesn't reflect life for most locals. They point to a range of social and environmental challenges facing Byron Bay - and many want Netflix out.

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the show was "offensive" to the community.

"We've almost got a Truman Show-type portrayal of who we are where everything is quite idyllic and superficial, where out the back it's an empty parking lot," he said.

"We've got a community that is in real stress, we've got a community that has real life issues dealing with housing, work, affordability."

The boycott petition, signed by more than 6,000 people, calls on local authorities to refuse all production filming permits needed for the proposed series.

"We are a community experiencing significant challenges driven by influencer culture and rapidly shifting demographics of residents. We do not want to be cast as the perfect backdrop and magnet for social media influencers. We do not want to appear in 'Byron Baes'," the petition said.

"Rather than using our region as a reality show punch line we want... authorities to focus on supporting our community to address systemic issues of housing affordability, coastal erosion, increasing unemployment, traffic management challenges, low high school completion rates and high levels of gendered and domestic violence."