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Dutch politicians aghast at new reality TV shows

Reuters | August 26, 2005
By Wendel Broere

AMSTERDAM - Dutch politicians have expressed outrage as a new channel set up by the creator of "Big Brother" pushes the boundaries of reality TV with a contestant due to give birth on the show, as well as a sperm donor contest.

Talpa, the new television station launched earlier this month by the billionaire producer of Big Brother John de Mol, aired a show on Wednesday in which a single woman and a lesbian couple try to select sperm donors to father a child.

"I don't want to wait five years and discover it's too late for me," Yessica, the 30-year-old single, said on the programme called "I Want Your Child... And Nothing Else!"

From Sunday, Talpa will broadcast a new series of Big Brother in which one of the contestants, an aspiring lawyer, is due to give birth six weeks into the show.

Both programmes have sparked fierce debate in Dutch newspaper columns and on talk shows and drawn criticism from politicians and doctors.

"It's demeaning. Everything is done to break the limits and get more viewers," said Joop Atsma, a parliamentarian from the ruling Christian Democrats (CDA).

"INNOCENT"

But Paul Roemer, director of Big Brother's production company, defended the new series as milder than much of what can be seen on television.

"I am doing something that will bring about emotions and which is innocent and can do no harm. I think it will also be good TV," Roemer told Reuters.

In Big Brother, a group of 12 strangers are locked in a house and gradually voted out by the audience. Versions of the show first aired in the Netherlands in 1999 have since been produced in dozens of countries worldwide.

Atsma's party has also drawn up parliamentary questions about the programme dubbed the "Sperm Show" by the Dutch media.

"This kind of programme is completely reprehensible from a moral point of view, especially if you look at the child's interest," Atsma said.

The programme, to which men can respond by email, is a pilot competing with four other shows to become a full series.

The others include a show which follows five former prostitutes starting a cafe and a programme in which two people who have never met will get engaged. Talpa viewers vote on Saturday which show they want to see more of.

Doctors expressed concern about the welfare of the child that could be born after artificial insemination, knowing its father was chosen in a television show.

"If the aim is to seek publicity, sensation and attract viewers, then I think it is not a good thing," said Maarten Schutte, a doctor from a Dutch association of gynaecologists.

Schutte said it could also cast a negative light on giving sperm in a country where there has been a shortage of donors since the law changed last year to give children the right to know the identity of their biological father.

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911:  The Road to Tyranny