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Big Brother with babies causes tantrums in Germany

A new German reality television show in which teenagers will be filmed looking after babies "donated" for the programme sparked outrage in Germany.

world Updated: May 14, 2009 22:47 IST

A new German reality television show in which teenagers will be filmed looking after babies "donated" for the programme sparked outrage in Germany on Thursday.

The show "Adults on Trial" is due to be launched in June and will feature four teenage couples who want to start a family grappling for four days with all the responsibilities of caring for a baby.

"Changing nappies, sleepless nights, screaming babies and a whole lot of responsibility ... are they really mature enough for the hardest job in the world, having their own children?" asks the RTL channel which is screening the show.

But the programme has been widely criticised.

"Children are not guinea-pigs!" said the German parliament's commission for children in a statement, accusing RTL of "exploiting children in an irresponsible manner."

The commission said it was "urgently calling on RTL not to show the series and not to produce any more of this type of programme that endangers the development of children."

Germany's Federation for the Protection of Children said it was "furious" at the concept which put children at "high risk."

"Should defenceless babies pay the price because RTL wants to get the highest possible viewing figures and therefore the best advertising revenue? This is unacceptable for us," said Paula Honkanen-Schoberth, the federation's head.

The babies "lent" to the teenagers for the programme will be monitored around the clock by child psychologists and doctors, said RTL.

In addition, the real parents are in an adjacent house and can break off the "experiment" at any time, the channel said.

"During the experiment, the mothers were only a few metres away from their babies. Sometimes they were standing directly behind the cameraman. Day and night they could watch their children live on the monitor," RTL added on its website.

One mother who handed over her 10-month-old son, Lasse, for the filming of the programme said she had no qualms.

"The trial parents managed very well, Lasse managed very well and there was always a paediatrician or someone else nearby. Even the whole camera team looked after Lasse brilliantly. Lasse had so much fun during the project," said 31-year-old Katrin in an interview on RTL's website.

She said she would definitely do it again.

The first episode of the show is due to be screened on June 3.

The programme follows the same format as "Baby for Hire" in the Netherlands, a show produced by Endemol, the Dutch group that created the "Big Brother" and "Star Academy."

The lovebirds in that show were aged between 17 and 20 years and included one lesbian couple.

The RTL programme is the latest in a series of reality TV shows that have caused controversy.

"Lost in the Tribe", a programme in which three Spanish families were sent to live with indigenous communities in Namibia was accused Wednesday of mistreating members of one of the tribes involved, the San bushmen.

In 2007, another Dutch TV show which said it would film a woman deciding on air who would get her donated kidney, caused uproar in the Netherlands, but turned out to be a hoax.