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Oliver Geissen Show: German TV Scandal


A paternity test can be used by couples who want peace of mind – but they can also be used in bitter disputes. It’s not unusual for a test to be used in a court scenario where issues such as child maintenance need to be resolved. But is a DNA test on TV really the appropriate way forward?

Paternity Test – The Emotional Fallout

Taking a paternity test can have huge emotional fallout for all involved – and when it’s a case of a child’s emotional and physical welfare, going on a TV show some believe, is plumbing new depths. But in 2003, news reports emerged from Berlin about a TV show that used a DNA test to put fathers on trial.

Live on TV

In the Oliver Geissen show, one of Germany’s biggest TV celebrities, men are invited on set to find out if they are fathers or not. The woman who suspects the man of fathering their child also features on set as mouth swab DNA samples are taken from the men for a paternity test. The results are then announced live on air. Child and family welfare groups heavily criticized the show for insensitivity and for displaying an acute lack of moral responsibility.

Paternity Test on TV – Emotionally Exploitative

However, all the adults who appear on the show for a paternity DNA test consent to appear on TV – whether or not the show is exploiting emotionally vulnerable people is an issue that has been raised ever since shows like Jerry Springer began. Recent episodes on the reality TV show Big Brother have also raised concerns about putting mentally or emotionally vulnerable people on a television show in the name of entertainment. Taking a test should never be done lightly. However the German TV programme featured a glamour model handing over the test results in a white envelope with a commercial break building up the tension before results are read out live on air.

Since the outrage in Germany in 2003, it’s now not uncommon for a paternity test to be used on British Jerry Springer-inspired shows, such as Jeremy Kyle and Trisha.