Reality show readies for debut

While the storm over Dutch reality program “The Big Donor Show” continued to spread, Endemol insiders were suggesting that tonight’s screening of the program will surprise those critics who have called for it be shelved.

Officially, Endemol execs are refusing to comment on the 80-minute show, in which contestants will have a chance to receive a kidney transplant from a terminally ill woman. However, a press conference will be held immediately after the program airs, and Dutch station BNN continues to insist that its intention is to raise awareness over the lack of organ donors in the Netherlands.

The show, in which three seriously ill patients will vie to receive a kidney donated by a 37-year-old woman dying of cancer, has drawn widespread criticism across Europe, with politicians, patients and medical professionals slamming the premise as highly unethical and immoral.

On Wednesday, EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou joined the debate, dismissing BNN’s claims that the program will help to encourage more donors to come forward, while Ray Mackey, co-chairman of the British National Kidney Federation, has branded the concept “totally abhorrent.”

In the U.K., Endemol has been keen to distance itself from the show, which it says was developed by BNN. However, one former Endemol exec noted the concept had been kicking around the producer for a number of years.

Though a public broadcaster, BNN has a reputation for airing controversial programming. Last year, for example, the station came in for criticism when it aired “Over My Dead Body,” which followed five terminally ill young people over the course of a year. However, reaction to the show was largely positive, and it went on to draw a prize at the 2006 Dutch TV Awards.

Patrick Lodiers, who hosted that show, will also present “The Big Donor Show,” which is billed as a tribute to BNN founder Bart de Graaft, who died of kidney failure five years ago.

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