Germany fails to see the joke in lottery spoof

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The Independent Online
BONN - After 10 weeks, Germany's great jackpot drama continues, with no winner in sight. But the tension is having unexpected side-effects, including a television prank that misfired, writes Steve Crawshaw.

Yesterday, the super-jackpot increased to around pounds 17m. But a television programme made the mistake of running a spoof item claiming that the system was rigged and benefitted only the Finance Minister, Theo Waigel, and the budget deficit.

Distressed viewers jammed the television switchboards. Employees at the lottery headquarters received death threats. And when the programme-makers said it was a joke, the anger turned on them. Mr Waigel said the item was a personal calumny and insisted that federal coffers received nothing from lotteries - only regional ministries benefitted.