Sexual misconduct, unethical work practices, and mistreatment of employees are all issues that Channel Awesome has suffered from over the years—meticulously covered up to maintain the company’s squeaky-clean image. But no longer.
The Illinois-based media factory, which was founded in 2008, has recently come under fire from over a dozen of its former contributors with allegations ranging from gross mismanagement to sexual harassment and intimidation by company executives. It first rose to prominence alongside Screen Junkies and other networks as a staple of the geek community on YouTube.
On Monday, a collective of former employees published a document titled “Channel Not So Awesome” to air their grievances against the company that presently or formerly served as a home for popular channels like That Guy With The Glasses, The Angry Joe Show, Team Four Star, and The Spoony Experiment.
The document originated from a series of public and private discussions on Twitter between contributors who came together in early March to air their grievances about their experiences at Channel Awesome.
The company’s remaining contributors have been steadily abandoning the ship since the document went live over the revelations within, and fans have expressed both sympathy to the contributors and ire for the producers, prompting the creation of a Twitter hashtag called #ChangeTheChannel. Contributors The Rap Critic and Matthew Buck were among those to announce their departures. Others like Todd “Todd in the Shadows” Nathanson and Mike Jeavons left before the document’s publication.
Contributors to the document include several of the organization’s most prominent personalities, including Lindsay Ellis, Lewis “Linkara” Lovhaug, Kaylyn “MarzGurl” Saucedo, and Allison Pregler, who detailed their accounts of bullying, miscommunication, and in some cases, sexual harassment.
Many of the complainants allege that they were not adequately compensated for their work at the company, often being promised more money than what they received. In one instance, Beth Elderkin stated that she was told she would be given compensation for every hour of work that she did but was only paid for the length of the video itself, and not for the production offline, which spanned many more hours.
Complaints against Channel Awesome stretch as far back as 2015, when Allison Pregler spoke out publicly against her alleged treatment at the organization. Steam picked up soon after Kaylyn Saucedo’s departure, as she brought to light her own allegations against the company.
In the document, Pregler details how she and many other women were often received the blame by company execs Mike Michaud and Mike Ellis whenever a male producer was at fault for some issue or another.
In one incident, Allison Pregler says that former contributor Noah Antwiler had gotten into a Twitter spat with someone else at Channel Awesome after he posted a rape joke at her, which then led to him being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The argument, she says, escalated after she called Antwiler out for his remarks on Twitter and received death threats to her home by Antwiler’s fans.
Antwiler was eventually suspended by Channel Awesome, but it only caused him to escalate his public attacks on Pregler. She says that many on the outside assumed that she had gotten him fired—and the organization allowed the lie to spread by remaining silent. Instead, the company threatened to suspend her for speaking about the issue and gave her a written reprimand.
The company’s issues ran deeper than mere mismanagement, as several employees detail how they were subject to sexual harassment by former COO Mike Ellis, who is married. Sean Fausz, who ran the Epic Fail channel, alleges that Ellis hit on him repeatedly, referring to him as his “sexual cupcake.”
Holly Brown, who served as the company’s Director of Human Resources, says Ellis was upset that she wouldn’t pursue a relationship with him, and was further angered when she brought mismanagement issues to light. She was eventually fired after a surgery, and the company allegedly withheld her severance pay until she signed a contract prohibiting her from working in the industry for three years. She says that Doug Walker, who runs the company’s most well-known property, Nostalgia Critic, made the deciding vote to fire her.
Former producer Lindsay Ellis says she was intimidated into performing a scene by Walker in which she was sexually assaulted on camera, which she was uncomfortable with. Pregler posted a screenshot of the script, in which Ellis’ lines include sexual assault noises and the line, “No! Oh! Ungh! Ah! Oh! No! Don’t put it in there! Ungh!”
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After voicing her concerns, Walker promised that he would tone the scene down, but Ellis and her scene partner Lewis Lovhaug were still contractually obligated to perform voiceovers.
“His compromise was to alter it slightly, but it’s still very much a rape joke in the final product,” said Pregler in an interview with the Daily Dot. “Doug didn’t understand that it was offensive. He saw it as more of a sex joke and didn’t get how it might come off as rape.”
Ellis also alleges that between 2013 and 2014, the company went through a streak of sexual harassment complaints, one of which resulted in a report to the NYPD. These incidents, she says, “went unremarked upon by [Channel Awesome]. There was a rash of harassment against CA producers […] which was never acknowledged or condemned by CA.”
In response to the document, Channel Awesome issued a half-baked apology on social media that has been widely lambasted by both the former contributors and their fans.
“For the people who have spoken out about past instances they deemed hurtful, or unprofessional, we sincerely regret you felt that way,” reads the statement, which does nothing to directly address any of the grievances within the highly-publicized letter.
It remains to be seen how Channel Awesome, which continues to retain Doug Walker and his brother Rob, will survive.
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