Public concerned for well-being of begging participants

BERLIN — The producers of a popular Russian reality TV show set in Berlin are insisting that the 12 candidates taking part in the “Big Brother”-like skein, who are holed up in a specially built housing module in a city suburb and are required to beg for handouts, are in perfectly good health and are not starving.

“Golod” (Hunger), has six young men and six young women, none of whom speak German, forced to beg on the streets for food or money to survive. The contestant who raises the most cash wins $1,000 a month for the rest of his or her life.

Public concern about the candidates and media reports that some had even turned to stealing and possible prostitution prompted local police to investigate the facility in Berlin’s Spandau district last week. Authorities, however, found nothing illegal about the show or any wrongdoing on the part of contestants, who have been in the housing unit for more than two weeks. The uproar led Russian web TNT, which is airing the show, to hold a press conference in Berlin Friday. Managing director Roman Petrenko said the candidates are content and physically fit. The format is simply intended to stimulate “cross-cultural communication,” according to a source at TNT.”Golod” has been airing nightly on TNT since Nov. 7 and has become a hit, garnering an 11% market share.

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