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German "Idol" faces fine for teen humiliation

A teenager who suffered a breakdown on the German version of “American Idol” could end up costing its broadcaster 100,000 euros ($147,000). Germany’s Cultural Council, an official youth protection watchdog, has recommended private German broadcaster RTL be fined for broadcasting the incident, and other humiliating moments on its top-rated “Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar” or “DSDS.”

The Cultural Council accused RTL of “malicious disregard” for humanity on the show, arguing that the manner in which contestants are humiliated on the show could have detrimental effects on young viewers.

At issue are the early episodes of the current “DSDS” season, which focused mainly on talentless contestants who were dressed down by the show’s caustic jury.

In one of these sessions this season, a 17-year old boy was so upset by the audition and the jury’s criticisms that he hyperventilated and collapsed. Since his appearance on the show, where his full name and hometown were made public, he has received hundreds of abusive phone calls and has been forced to take leave from school.

The Cultural Council warned RTL of its concerns following the last season of “DSDS” but stopped short of a fine after the channel promised to make changes to the hit format.

But this year’s season is no better, argues Cultural Council chairman Wolf-Dieter Ring.

“Insults and anti-social behavior were presented as the norm, just as they were last season,” Ring said. “(The show) presents a mode of behavior to children that acts against the goals of education and child development such as respect and tolerance.”

RTL said it has not yet received an official notice from the Cultural Council and was waiting for the upcoming legal hearing where the council will make its case and any fine will be levied.

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