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ZDF promises better safety after show mishap

The Local · 6 Dec 2010, 15:44

Published: 06 Dec 2010 10:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 06 Dec 2010 15:44 GMT+01:00

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“Of course it‘s clear that we can’t just go back to normal,” said ZDF programming director Thomas Bellut. “We must and will learn from the accident.”

ZDF has undertaken an investigation of the mishap, which left 23-year-old contestant Samuel Koch with severe spinal injuries on Saturday evening as he attempted to jump over moving cars while wearing jumping stilts. But something went wrong on his fourth attempt, and he fell motionless to the floor.

Doctors were forced to put him into an artificial coma following an operation. He remains in critical condition and shows signs of paralysis.

After the accident, hosts Thomas Gottschalk and Michelle Hunziker called for a doctor and the live show was switched to repeats of musical acts from previous shows, which regularly attract millions of viewers across Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

After 25 minutes of musical repeats, Gottschalk announced that the show in Düsseldorf would not go on.

"I've always bragged that nothing could shake me in front of the camera," Gottschalk told Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday. "But in a split second, the entertainer in me stepped aside and the father came to the fore. I wasn't thinking about the show or my future, but how the boy was doing."

Gottschalk told the paper that both he and the show's producers were not under pressure to let candidates undertake irresponsible risks.

"I'm know in the production team for always trying to take unnecessary pressure out of the challenges," he said. "In this case, I had a highly motivated candidate who piled on that pressure himself. We took pressure off him."

According to Bellut, Wetten, dass? has featured physical stunts for 29 years, “and nothing bad has happened,” thanks to safety engineers on staff.

Though the show’s host Gottschalk reportedly told the audience before the stunt that he had been worried while watching Koch’s jump rehearsals, Bellut said there was no indication at the time that the jumps would be too dangerous.

Meanwhile ZDF board chairman and Rhineland-Palatinate state premier Kurt Beck called for an open discussion on the matter.

“Naturally we must discuss the matter – When are the limits of responsibility exceeded? How much risk can one take? And naturally we must also talk about the topics of thrill, daredevilry and TV ratings,” he told daily Die Welt.

Spokesperson for media issues for the centre-left Social Democrats, Martin Dörner, also called for changes.

“Certain risky bets can no longer occur,” he told daily Ruhr Nachrichten, adding that the debate over media ratings and responsibility must be renewed.

Story continues below…

“I would be in favour of us taking a step back from sensationalism,” he said.

Green party media policy expert, parliamentarian Tabea Rößner, appealed for broadcasters “not to lose balance in the fight for better ratings.”

DPA/The Local/ka

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:59 December 6, 2010 by pepsionice
Only an observation....after watching Wetten Dass since 1993, but they've been pulling these extreme stunts for the entire period of time. Out of the nine odd shows they do a year, I'd estimate that at least seven or eight stunts a year should have been on the forbidden list. It amazes me that the network just kept smiling and never doing anything to ever tone down the stunts.

This week....everyone will get these various news reports of children upset at school because they stayed up watching the "family-show" and parents thought it was ok to let six-year old kids watch it. By next weekend....some political talk show will pick up this entire topic and suggest that government oversight should be utilized, and then some idiot will remind everyone that it was on the government channel to start with.
12:44 December 6, 2010 by mixxim
A similar show in the UK with Jeremy Beadle ended after a stunt went wrong and someone was killed. Although some blame has to be with the contestant, the main blame has to be with Gottschalk's show as someone should have foreseen the dangers in this case and prevented it from taking place. No doubt the show will continue to make those responsible even richer!
18:51 December 6, 2010 by Dancingbear501
People are killed because of entertainment all the time. No matter what measures we take, sports are dangerous. Take all the risk out and Wetten Dass will become about as interesting as an eating contest.
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