LONDON — In an exclusive interview with Variety, Endemol co-founder John de Mol has spoken out in defense of the company’s controversial Dutch reality program “The Big Donor Show,” ahead of its airing Friday evening.
The program, in which three contestants will vie to receive a kidney transplant from a terminally ill woman, has been widely condemned by politicians and medical professionals across Europe, but de Mol said critics should wait and see the show before rushing to make any judgements.
“The politicians are getting involved in these discussions, mostly without exactly knowing what it’s all about,” he said.
“I think the way the show is going to be produced and made is something everybody has to wait and see tonight. My only message to all the criticism of the show is don’t judge before you have seen the show.”
BNN, the public broadcaster that will air the show, has insisted that its intention is to raise awareness over the lack of organ donors in the Netherlands, a point which de Mol also makes.
“The aim of the show is to create attention for a huge problem we have in Holland,” he said. “You just don’t have enough donors. People are dying in this country where thousands of people with healthy organs are buried or cremated without making use of those organs. There are a few very, very sad examples tonight in the show of people who are about to die because they can’t get a kidney in time.”
While few critics would dispute the seriousness of the problem, many question whether a reality TV show is the right vehicle to raise awareness over the issue. However, de Mol argues that the huge amount of media attention generated by the show has already succeeded in triggering a wider debate.
“For the last two and a half years this subject has had different kinds of attention from the media, because it is a problem, and somehow the attention never really helped to solve the problem. Politicians so far haven’t found it interesting enough to make it an issue. Now all of a sudden they say we have to change the law, and in that way I think the show already contributed more than all the politicians together in this country for the last two and a half years.”
Although, the show was developed prior to de Mol regaining control of Endemol last month, a similar format was devised at the company eight years ago, prior to its sale to Telefonica.
“The reason why we came up with the idea was that the waiting list in Holland for heart operations was up to a year,” said de Mol.
As with “The Big Donor Show,” the idea was to focus on three people who needed an urgent operation, but the program never saw the light of day. Friday’s show, on the other hand, will go ahead, despite calls for it to be shelved.