The latest Dutch version of the reality show "Big Brother" features a woman who's seven months pregnant and may give birth live on TV. The government is studying whether using the newborn would violate laws against hiring children.
The show made its season debut Sunday. A spokeswoman for Endemol, creator of the series, said producers hadn't decided exactly what the program will show when the pregnant woman, identified only as "Tanja," goes into labor.
"She may be voted off the program first," spokeswoman Cathelijne Nijssen said.
Nijssen said that in any case, the show would not take medical risks with the baby, and a birth would be presented in "a tasteful manner."
The Dutch Social Affairs Ministry will decide this week whether to grant a work permit allowing the baby -- essentially a child actor -- to make an appearance on the show.
Ministry spokeswoman Bea Versteeg said as long as no laws were broken, the ministry had no objection in principle to having babies on TV.
Dutch law limits a child to a maximum of four television appearances before its seventh birthday, for no more than four hours per appearance. Taping must be during daytime, and a child can't be the main focus of a show.
"Big Brother," created in the Netherlands in 1999 and then marketed in dozens of countries, features a group of contestants confined in a house for 100 days under constant camera surveillance. Tanja's baby is due in about two months, the show's producers said.
Viewers vote contestants off one by one in what is essentially a popularity contest. This season's winner will receive $491,000.
The pregnancy stunt boosted ratings at Dutch media tycoon John de Mol's television station Talpa, which began broadcasting in mid-August. De Mol is seen as the architect of the original "Big Brother," which ushered in the age of "reality" television shows.
"We had 1.5 million viewers last night, that's the second best in the country" after highlights of the weekend's soccer matches, Nijssen said Monday.
Reactions to the idea of a live birth on TV were muted in the Netherlands, a country of 16 million people, where rules on television nudity and sex-related issues are relatively relaxed.
Last week Talpa introduced a show about women seeking sperm donors, including a single woman and a lesbian couple. But it was canceled after one episode, apparently due to poor ratings.
One educational television program in 2002 called "The Birth" showed women giving birth. They were blanketed from the chest down during labor.
Few biographical details were released about Tanja other than that she is 27, lives in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, dreams of studying law, and became pregnant by accident.
She said she thought the "Big Brother" house would be "an ideal place to give birth."
She has shocked other contestants by smoking several cigarettes since they entered the house together last Wednesday.
On Monday, she complained about not being allowed to ride an exercise cycle along with other contestants. "I can bike, too. In fact, I had to bike as part of the entrance examination."