The Netherlands' BNN television network is carrying a new production from Endemol, one of the pioneers of reality TV with its 1999 creation of "Big Brother," but its latest offering is drawing widespread criticism. It's the "Big Donor Show." The premise is that a terminally ill woman suffering from an inoperable brain tumor will select one lucky winner from among three candidates to receive one of her perfectly healthy kidneys. She'll interview the candidates and their friends and families, and the home audience will be allowed to weigh in with text messages at about a half dollar a pop, according to the Associated Press.
The program is being slammed for tastelessness and lack of ethics. For starters, medical experts point out that tissue matches are a critical part of any transplant, and that part of the equation seems not to be a part of this situation. All of the in-country transplant locations have declined to participate, which could force the producers to seek a foreign location to make good on their promise of a transplant. However, despite all the protest from the medical community, the Netherlands government declined to stop the program from being aired on free speech grounds. In the end, it turned out the program was an elaborate hoax designed to focus a spotlight on the dearth of organ donors. BNN said it will make no money on the broadcast.
TVBR observation: Now the debate is over whether the program was a public service or a publicity stunt. We think it may constitute the ground-breaking of a whole new sub-genre: Fictional Reality Programming. Was this the best way to shine a light on organ donors? Somehow it doesn't seem like it, but it sure got a lot of attention, and the fact that we're writing about it here on the other side of the pond can be entered into evidence as Exhibit #1.