Saturday, June 02, 2007

Real reality TV?

Reality TV - we know the format. Contestants battle it out on television, their every move being scrutinised, to win the public vote, and thus the prize. But what happens when the contestants are those in desperate need of a kidney transplant so they didn't need to spend the rest of their life on dialysis treatment? But this is what happened on the Dutch show De Grote Donorshow ('The Big Donor Show').

According to the format, a terminally ill woman, called Lisa was willing to donate her kidneys to one of three contestants requiring a kidney transplant, and the viewers could text her to aid her in the decision. One of the contestants was so ill that she could only drink a pint of fluid a day as that was all her body could cope with. Before it was aired, the show was condemned internationally as unethical, asking three people to compete over potentially life-saving treatment.

In the Netherlands, there is a chronic shortage of organ donors, and 200 people die every year waiting for a kidney transplant.

However, just as Lisa was going to give her decision, the presenter interrupted, announcing that the show was a hoax. Lisa was actually an actress, and although the contestants really did require kidney transplants, they were in on the hoax and were taking part to publicize the plight of those waiting for organ transplants. And the show definitely did that - 12,000 people texted the TV channel after the show saying they would join the donor list.

Given the publicity, it's shocking that no-one suspected it was a hoax. Prehaps this says a lot about the tasteless and sadistic nature of today's reality TV.

The chairman of BNN, the channel that broadcasted it, admitted the show was in 'bad taste' but said he 'believe[s] that reality is even worse taste'. And whether it's about the tragic shortage of organ donors or the repugnant nature of today's TV, he's probably right.

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