The Church of England last night condemned a TV programme in which contestants humiliate themselves begging for money from a panel of millionaires.
Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway, which began on ITV earlier this month, has been criticised for making Celebrity Big Brother look tasteful - and has provoked a series of angry responses.
Five millionaires, including the disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer and the Scottish entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne, have put together a £1m pot, and members of the public are invited to abase themselves in return for a handout.
Contestants tell the panel their particular tale of woe and hope Lord Archer and a majority of his fellow panellists agree to hand over some money. While there are some deserving cases, such as that of a young boy recovering from cancer who wanted to help fellow sufferers, the majority are less so. For example, one woman on the same episode wanted £45,000 for a space to practise pole dancing.
The Church of England said it did not like the format of the show or others like it: "We are concerned about programmes that turn humiliation into entertainment," a spokesman said.
"There are also issues to do with informed consent. Does a young person always realise what the consequences might be of being recognised as the person who went on the show begging - this is of great concern to us."
The comedy screenwriter Carla Lane, best known for Bread and Butterflies, said: "The people who run TV now obviously have nothing to say and they are looking for anyone to say anything," she said. "This is just awful."
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats' media spokesman, said: "Opinion polls consistently say that people don't want these sort of things but then they go and watch them; television companies are making an awful lot of money out of them."
ITV defended its programme last night. "Each case is judged on its merits by the panel, whose job it is to agree on whether the [contestant] should get a slice of their collective fortune," a spokesman said. "Whether someone's request for the money is justified is entirely subjective."
Police to talk to Goody over 'Big Brother' racism row
Hertfordshire police said yesterday that they are trying to interview Jade Goody about allegedly racist comments aimed at Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty during her stint in the Big Brother house. So far the 25-year-old has been unavailable for the inquiry despite repeat requests to her agents. Shetty was named odds-on favourite to win the competition. There was further bad news for Goody when she accused of "legitimising" bullying in schools by Chris Keates of the NASUWT teachers' union. She said: "How do you discourage bullying when youngsters see celebrity status and money can be acquired on the basis of humiliating others?"
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