RTL criticized over 'Erwachsen'

Reality show under attack before it airs

COLOGNE, Germany -- German commercial giant RTL has come under a firestorm of criticism for a show it hasn't even aired yet.

Germany's family minister, the country's parliament and even the German protestant church have demanded RTL cancel next week's broadcast of reality TV show "Erwachsen auf Probe," in which teenagers thinking of having children are given real babies to raise for a month.

Adapted from the BBC format "The Baby Borrowers," the German show has been attacked as exploitative and degrading. Family minister Ursula von der Leyen suggested RTL was violating the babies' human rights by letting teens take care of them. She also attacked the show for "portraying everyday life with small children as pure stress, confrontation and conflict."

RTL tried to appease the critics with a town hall meeting last Friday where it screened the first episodes of the show and held a public debate. The network argues the show is educational and that the children -- who are monitored around the clock by medical and pedagogical experts -- were safe at all times during the shoot.

"We completely fulfilled our responsibilities ... to the children, (teenagers) and parents as well as to our audience," said RTL boss Anke Schaferkordt. "We will proceed with the broadcast as planned, and we are fully behind the concept."

"Erwachsen auf Probe" goes on air in primetime in Germany June 3.