UK reality TV program branded "freak show"

LONDON (Reuters) - A new British reality TV show, which will film two people -- one disfigured, the other attractive -- living together in a house full of mirrors, has been branded a “freak show” by critics.

In each episode of Channel 4’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a different pair will be followed by cameras both inside and outside the house, to explore how people’s lives are shaped by their looks.

“Channel 4 pledged an end to this kind of voyeuristic programing when they announced the finish of Big Brother,” said Vivienne Pattison, director of campaign group Mediawatch UK.

“Putting a disfigured person in a mirrored house in the name of entertainment is neither a healthy nor an appropriate subject for a television program,” she said.

“It sounds like an extraordinary freak show.”

The six-part series is however being made with the co-operation of disfigurement charity Changing Faces.

Channel 4, which is publicly owned but funded by advertising, has defended the program: “The series aims to challenge people’s narrow definition of beauty in a frank and engaging format,” said a spokesman.

Details of the program came to light just as Channel 4’s Big Brother nears the end of its 11th and final series.

That program had come under fire for featuring someone suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, dwarves and plastic surgery obsessives which critics said exploited vulnerable people for television.

Beauty and the Beast is expected to air later this year or early next year.

Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Steve Addison