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Seven & Nine cook the formats

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What’s the difference between The Hotplate and My Kitchen Rules? Just ask Seven and Nine.

Justice Nicholas’ findings this week detail affidavits supplied by Brad Lyons, Seven’s Head of Production, and John Butt, Head of Legal and Business Affairs of Endemol.

Both outline what they see as the key elements of their respective shows.

Justice Nicholas conceded the format of the two programs “seem to me to be very similar, and each of the ‘key elements’ referred to by Mr Lyons seems to be common to both formats.” But that also did not necessarily mean copying had occurred.

Nine maintained  MKR itself comprised unoriginal elements, claiming there was “nothing new about having contestants in a reality television cooking program in which couples or pairs compete against other couples or pairs (Come Dine with Me Couples and Ready Steady Cook), where competitors travel to the other competitors’ homes to compete (Come Dine with Me Australia) or where there are two expert judges  The Chopping Block and The Great Australian Bake Off).

The judge was unable to dispute Nine’s claim because this hadn’t been addressed by Seven and found it difficult to answer the question of whether there had been an infringement of copyright. To reproduce in a material form elements of a dramatic work which are in themselves not original will not normally constitute an infringement of copyright.

Here are the affidavits as detailed in the court’s ruling:

My Kitchen Rules:

In his affidavit evidence, Mr Brad Lyons, the Seven Director of Network Production, says that each series of MKR comprises the following key elements:

(a) A cooking competition amongst multiple pairs of contestants, each pair coming from a different state of Australia;

(b) Teams take turns to cook in ‘Instant Restaurants’ in their homes;

(c) In the Instant Restaurant rounds, the other teams travel (interstate) to the home of the team whose turn it is to cook;

(d) The “host team” prepares and serves a three course meal for their fellow contestant “guest teams” and two expert judges;

(e) The two expert judges are established professionals within the restaurant/food industry;

(f) The meal is prepared “against the clock” – there is a 3 hour preparation time-limit;

(g) The judges have one on one discussions with the “host team” about their menu choices and the challenges involved as well as separately filmed interviews with the judges on food choice and preparation;

(h) The judges are seated at the head of the dining table and from there they critique each course to the host couple who stand opposite them at the other end of the dining table;

(i) After each course is served, the host team returns to the kitchen to prepare their next course;

(j) At the end of the evening the host team receives scores from the judges, and separately, a combined score from the guest teams;

(k) All scores are tallied and the team score is added to a “leader board”; and

(l) The best performing teams from the Instant Restaurant rounds progress to additional round(s) where they participate in elimination challenges and the overall winners are determined.

The Hot Plate:

Mr John Butt, Head of Legal and Business Affairs of Endemol, made an affidavit in which he identifies some of the differences between Hotplate and MKR. According to Mr Butt:

(a) The Hotplate is based on professional restaurateurs, and established restaurant businesses, whereas MKR involves amateur cooks in their kitchens.

(b) The restaurants and contestants for The Hotplate were selected because they were varied examples of different restaurant styles and the best characters, not because they are from a particular State (as is the case for MKR) – as a result, two restaurants are in Sydney, one is in Brisbane, one is in Perth, one is in Mandurah (in Western Australia) and one is in regional Victoria.

(c) The restaurant businesses featured in The Hotplate focus on different cuisines in order to show different cooking styles, including Italian, Japanese, French, seafood, modern Australian and Asian fusion.

(d) In Round 1 of The Hotplate, the contestants are required to cook meals from their existing menu, and must be prepared to cook anything on the menu since they are not given advance notice of which two entrees, two mains and two desserts will be ordered by the judges, whereas in MKR the contestants select their own menu of one entree, one main and one dessert. The Hotplate shows the contestants preparing meals, but does not show them shopping for ingredients as for MKR.

(e) When their restaurant is featured, the contestants in The Hotplate wear what they generally wear in their day-to-day business – they are not provided with a branded apron as they are for MKR or for Masterchef (another well-known cooking program).

(f) In Round 1 of The Hotplate, the other restauranteur contestants provide their scores to the judges in a bill folder, but in Round 2 (after the restaurant makeovers), the other contestants must deliver their scores directly to the contestants whose restaurant is being featured on the night.

(g) The judges in The Hotplate give feedback to the contestants about everything from the ambiance and decor of the restaurant to the service to the overall menu to the specific dishes they serve – this is aimed at assisting the restaurateurs with how they can improve their businesses as a whole, not just the cooking. This is not an element of MKR since the program does not involve actual restaurant businesses.

(h) In Round 2 of The Hotplate, the contestants are given an amount of money to undertake renovations and makeovers of their restaurant’s furniture, colour scheme and decor in addition to updating of the restaurant’s menu. Again, this is not an element of MKR since the program does not involve the renovation or makeover of restaurant businesses. This information may be confidential to Nine. I have not had time to check while preparing this affidavit.

(i) In Round 3 of The Hotplate, the contestants cook meals from their newly renovated restaurants for diners. This is not an element of the MKR program since it does not involve restaurants or their diners.

But the judge ruled Seven had “reasonable grounds” for a full hearing either late this year or early next year before any second season of The Hotplate.

Seven has indicated it intends to do just that.

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