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Dutch 'Big Brother' May Feature Live Birth

(Posted August 29, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

The latest version of the game show "Big Brother" launched Sunday in the Netherlands features a woman who is seven months pregnant, raising the possibility she will give birth live on television.

The Dutch Social Affairs Ministry will decide later this week whether to grant a work permit allowing the baby essentially a child actor to make an appearance on the show.

Ministry spokeswoman Bea Versteeg said as long as no laws were broken the ministry had no objection in principle to having babies on TV. But the amount of time the infant can appear on camera will be brief, she said.

Dutch law limits a child to a maximum of four television appearences before its seventh birthday, for no more than four hours per appearence. Filming must be during daytime hours, and a child can't be the main focus of a show.

A spokeswoman for Endemol, the creator of the "Big Brother" series, said "we really don't know yet what we'll do" when the pregnant woman, identified only by her first name 'Tanja,' goes into labor.

"She may be voted off the program first," Endemol spokeswoman Cathelijne Nijssen said.

Nijssen said that in any case, the show would not take medical risks with the baby and a birth would be presented in "a tasteful manner."

"We've spoken to gynecologists, psychologists, they all think it could be better, warmer to have a baby in the Big Brother house than in a hospital," she said.

Big Brother, created in the Netherlands in 1999 and then marketed in dozens of countries around the world, features a group of contestants who are confined in a house for 100 days under constant camera surveillance. Tanja's baby is due in about 49 days, the show's producers said.

Viewers vote the contestants off one by one in what is essentially a popularity contest. This season's winner will receive €400,000 (US$491,000).

The pregnancy publicity stunt revived ratings at the television station Talpa, owned by Dutch media tycoon John de Mol, which began broadcasting in mid-August. De Mol is seen as the architect of the original Big Brother, which ushered in the age of "reality" television shows.

"We had 1.5 million viewers last night, that's the second best in the country" after highlights of the weekend's soccer matches, Nijssen said Monday.

But reactions to the idea of a live birth on TV were muted in the Netherlands, a country of 16 million people, where rules on television nudity and sex-related issues are relatively relaxed.

Last week Talpa introduced a show about women seeking sperm donors, including a single woman and a lesbian couple. But it was canceled after one episode, apparently due to poor ratings.

One educational television program in 2002 called "The Birth" showed women giving birth. They were blanketed from the chest down during labor.

Some viewers complained about a 2003 show targeting teen viewers, called "This Is How You Screw." Its final episode included a segment on "how to have surreptitious sex at a nightclub," using life-size mannequins with realistic sex organs.

Few biographical details were released about the pregnant woman Tanja other than that she is 27, lives in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, dreams of studying law, and became pregnant by accident.

She said she thought the Big Brother house would be "an ideal place to give birth."

She has shocked other contestants by smoking several cigarettes since they entered the house together last Wednesday.

On Monday, she complained about not being allowed to ride an exercise bicycle along with other contestants. "I can too bike. In fact, I had to bike as part of the entrance examination."

Big Brother is named after the all-seeing government in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. Several channels of live video are broadcast from the show's web site.


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Source: Yahoo! News

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