UK's Channel 4 to ditch Big Brother reality show

Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:53pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Channel 4 said on Wednesday it was ditching the once-popular "Big Brother" reality television series amid falling ratings for this year's show.

Launched in Britain in 2000, the show in which the public votes to evict contestants from a house and garden where they are continuously filmed made celebrities out of Jade Goody and "Nasty" Nick Bateman.

It was at the center of a major broadcasting scandal in 2007, when contestant Goody was accused of racist bullying of Indian housemate Shilpa Shetty, prompting tens of thousands of complaints and dominating media headlines.

Goody was evicted in a public vote and Bollywood actress Shetty went on to win the series.

Some commentators said 'Big Brother,' owned by a consortium comprising Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Italy's Mediaset Group and Cyrte Group, never fully recovered from the race row, after which they said it was "watered down."

Others believed the show had grown stale and failed to win over the "Facebook generation" of young viewers more likely to find their entertainment on the Internet.

Estimates show that around two million people have been tuning in to the latest 'Big Brother' series, the 10th -- a fraction of its peak audience of 10 million.

Even bookmakers have felt the effect, with gambling on the outcome of this year's show down 75 percent on 2008, according to William Hill.   Continued...

<p>The winner of British TV company Channel 4's 'Big Brother' gameshow Craig Phillips (R) plants a kiss with fellow contestant Darren Ramsey (L) on Anna Nolan's cheek (2R) on the set of the TV show September 16, 2000. REUTERS/Dan Chung</p>