Applicants rush to join BBC’s ‘real Hunger Games’ project

24,000 people have signed a petition calling for Britain's Hardest Grafters to be scrapped - but that hasn't deterred would-be contestants

Applications have been flooding in from low-paid and unemployed workers eager to take part in a BBC2 show that’s been dubbed the ‘real Hunger Games’.

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A source on the show tells RadioTimes.com that there has been a spike in applicants since Britain’s Hardest Grafters made the headlines last week, after graduate website Graduate Fog received a casting notice and likened it to dystopian blockbuster The Hunger Games and “poverty porn” shows like Channel 4’s Benefits Street. A subsequent online petition calling for it to be scrapped has already been signed by 24,000 people.

According to the BBC’s description of the show when it was commissioned in January, contestants will be asked to carry out jobs in the real workplace and within a specially created factory that will change each episode to represent the UK’s largest blue collar sectors. 

Applications are only open to people earning or receiving benefits totalling less than £15,500, and the winner is expected to take home a sum in the region of that figure.

The BBC and production company Twenty Twenty have issued a joint statement defending the show: “Britain’s Hardest Grafter is a current affairs commission and not an entertainment format, and is at the very earliest stages of production. The welfare of those taking part is of paramount importance and it is a misinterpretation of the concept of the series to suggest it is exploitative.”

A source told RadioTimes.com that the casting call was written “a little clumsily” but “the competition structure is being used to shine a light on the variety of jobs people do in the low-wage economy, what it takes to do them well, and to shatter all sorts of myths surrounding the low-paid and unemployed sector.

“When people see the final product we’re confident they’ll feel the subject was dealt with sensitively.”

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The show is currently being cast and will be filmed later this year. There are no plans to halt production or rethink the format in the light of the petition.

Why is a new BBC reality show being called ‘the real Hunger Games’?