EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Unions crtiticise TV game show with jobs as prizes

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In October 2004 a Greek television channel began airing a game show in which two unemployed people compete for a job. The programme provoked strong opposition from the trade union movement, which sees it as exploiting the social problem of unemployment.

On 18 October 2004, the Greek television channel Alpha began broadcasting a new 'reality' game show entitled 'Congratulations, you’re hired'. The show’s winner, selected by viewers by telephone poll, is awarded a contract of employment as a prize. This game-show format was aired for the first time two years previously in Argentina, where it was called 'Human resources', as well as in other countries such as Portugal, Romania and most recently Germany, where it was forced off the air in a storm of protests.

In each episode, two unemployed people must demonstrate how suitable they are for the specific job on offer and how great is their need for work. Two jobseekers appear on stage, where the presenter introduces them to the audience, which includes their families. Videotapes are shown in which relatives describe the players’ unhappiness at being unemployed. Then the players are asked to answer questions to demonstrate their general knowledge, their suitability for a job in their area of expertise and their real need to find a job. The final judges are the television viewers, who vote by telephone to determine who will finally get the job.

The airing of the game show provoked strong opposition from the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), which released a statement describing the 'game-show offering jobs as prizes as sordid' and denouncing as 'impermissible this type of televised exploitation, in pursuit of ratings, of the extremely acute social problem of unemployment'.

In a letter to the National Radio and Television Council, GSEE asked the chair of the Personal Data Protection Authority and the Public Prosecutor at the Supreme Court to intervene. GSEE also sent a statement to the government and the leaders of political parties, demanding that the show be taken off the air. GSEE did not rule out further action, stating that it 'will take every possible step, intervening decisively on all levels, to safeguard citizens’ right to work and dignity', stressing that 'unemployment is not a game and work is a right, not a prize'.

The Hellenic Association of Technical Employees also expressed its opposition, stressing that the stressful process of looking for a job should not constitute a spectacle or a means of entertainment, and that television channels should not play the part of 'offbeat employment agencies'.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Sector of Union Network International (UNI-MEI) voiced support for the Greek unions' views, asking the programme's broadcasters to be guided by propriety and respect for their audience, rather than seeking commercial advantage at any cost.

On the issue of airing of a 'reality' show rewarding unemployed players with jobs, the National Human Rights Commission stated that there was a danger of violating fundamental rights protected by the constitution and international conventions, such as the right to work and respect for human value and dignity, by exploiting such an acute social problem on television. The Commission considers any form of 'commercialisation of human dignity and need' to be inadmissible, and calls on all the parties involved to carry out the necessary controls in their field of competence, so as effectively to safeguard respect for human value, the right to work and the dignity of citizens in the process of finding a job.

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