Too real for TV?

Public raises concern over health of reality show contestants

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, are in perfectly good health and are not starving.

The premise of the show, “Golod” (Russian for 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 of the contestants 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 13 days (as of Nov. 21).

The uproar surrounding the show also led Russian web TNT, which is airing the show, to hold a press conference in Berlin Friday (Nov. 21). TNT managing director Roman Petrenko said the candidates are content and physically fit. In addition to the money and food they receive by begging, the contestants also get a daily 2,000-calorie vitamin-enriched breakfast drink and oatmeal. The facility also has plenty of “potatoes, pasta and

butter,” according to a TNT statement.

In addition to begging, contestants have also resorted to performing on the street and washing cars. Two female participants were also approached by pimps looking to sign them up.

The format is simply intended to stimulate “cross-cultural communication,” according to a source at TNT, who added, “The aim of the show is for the candidates to make the situation as extreme as possible.”

“Golod” has been airing nightly on TNT since Nov. 7 and has become a hit for the web, garnering an average 11% market share for the web.

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