Dutch show 'Donor' was stunt to raise awareness


AMSTERDAM -- Dutch pubcaster BNN considers its media stunt with the fake "Great Donor Show," which aired Friday in the Netherlands, a successful mission. In the reality-style program, a 37-year-old terminally ill patient was supposed to donate a kidney to one of three contestants in need of a transplant. Shortly before the ending it was announced that the show was a hoax to draw attention to the lack of donors in the country.

About 18,000 viewers registered during the program as donors, and that number is growing. About 1.7 million people watched the program, making it one of the best-viewed programs in BNN history.

In response to the broadcast that attracted worldwide media coverage, BNN got mainly kudos for its setup. Even critics like Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende complimented the pubcaster afterward for the hoax, which some media watchers compared with Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds."

Only 15 people, including media tycoon John de Mol and the three kidney patients, were aware of the true nature of the program before it aired. Producer Endemol had a lot of explaining to do to its foreign customers; Endemol director Paul Romer said in the Dutch press that many foreign clients were appalled by the program and were considering canceling orders.

In front of the Endemol office in Cologne, Germany, a protest was held with signs reading "Murderers!"

BNN considers the show a one-time affair. Chairman Laurens Drillich said that the program, dedicated to BNN founder Bart de Graaff, who died of kidney failure in 2001, has fulfilled its objective of drawing worldwide attention to donorship.