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Mocking TV talent show is shelved

A top Philippines TV game show has been taken off the air amid a growing row over a slot in which a crying six-year-old boy pretended to be a striptease dancer.

Willing Willie host Willie Revillame said he was taking two weeks off after which he will announce if he will return to television.

Angry viewers and commentators have launched a campaign on social-networking sites to remove Revillame from the show, which offers cash prizes for singing, dancing, storytelling and playing games.

They say Revillame showed poor taste and mocked his mostly impoverished viewers. The young contestant, accompanied on the show by an aunt, earned £140 for his dance. Revillame and others applauded as the boy performed.

The outcry led major sponsors to pull out, including Procter & Gamble, Del Monte, Unilever and Philippine fast-food giant Jollibee Foods. The March 12 episode also prompted soul-searching discussions about the quality of TV entertainment in the Philippines.

The TV5 network said it wanted to improve the programme and work with television and advertising industry stakeholders on guidelines for the participation of children in all game and reality TV shows.

Philippine-born theatre actress Monique Wilson, in a widely circulated email carried by local media, argued that such TV shows "dumb down audiences (and) disempower them by creating a mendicant society with game shows that promise 'quick money'."

Social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman last month condemned "the emotional abuse and humiliation" the boy suffered and said the programme violated a law against child abuse.

It was not clear if Revillame and TV5 will face charges. The Commission on Human Rights and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said it was investigating.

Revillame has apologised but also claims his former TV network is trying to destroy his career.

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