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Big Brother ratings slump as viewers get vulgarity fatigue

Luffy | Friday, June 01, 2007 | 0 comments
As you can see, this year's Big Brother contestants are just as shy and retiring as we've come to expect.

But it seems that viewers are growing tired of the wannabes' predictably 'raunchy' antics - the audience for the programme's first night was down by a fifth on last year.

Although it beat BBC1's The Apprentice, the opening night drew in only 6.2million viewers - 700,000 fewer than tuned in for the first episode in 2006.
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Look at me: Former lapdancer Charley is no shrinking violet

In the key demographic of 16 to 34-yearold viewers, which is the most sought after by advertisers, the audience had also dipped by 20 per cent from last year's launch night.

The fall in ratings has led to claims that the Big Brother brand - an advertising goldmine for Channel 4 - has been tainted by the disastrous handling of the race row on this year's celebrity version.

The opening episode on Wednesday was preceded by a statement of rebuke from media watchdog Ofcom over the treatment of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty by her fellow contestants.

The house rules for this series have been updated to warn contestants against bullying.

They also to make clear that offensive remarks on the grounds of race, religion or sexuality are unacceptable.

However, the series seems to be running true to form with a torrent of foul language, drinking, vulgarity and sexual exhibitionism from the all-female group of housemates.

Within hours of entering the house, unemployed former lap dancer Charley Uchea - a cousin of the Manchester United footballer Kieran Richardson - made a desperate ploy for attention by ripping open her shirt for the cameras.

Lurid pictures have emerged of the 21-year-old frolicking topless in a swimming pool at a party hosted by rapper P Diddy.

Back inside, the women demanded more alcohol from producers, before some admitted they had already drunk too much. They then left nothing to the imagination as they talked graphically about their toilet habits.

The conversation left 60-year-old WI member Lesley Brain looking more and more like a fish out of water.

The show's fans have been quick to express their feelings about some of the contestants.

A group called I Hate The Big Brother Twins - referring to Barbie lookalikes Sam and Amanda Marchant - has already been launched on the Internet. The blonde twins, who claimed they dislikedchavs', were greeted by crowds at the house with a tumultuous chorus of boos.

Another group, called Evict Chanelle from the Big Brother House, has also started on the web. Its aim is to encourage viewers to vote off the 19-year old Victoria Beckham wannabe first.

But apart the die-hard fans, few seem to be mustering any great enthusiasm for the programme.

Many have taken the lower than expected viewing figures as a sign that the bubble could be about to burst on the controversial show. John Beyer, director of pressure group Mediawatch UK, said: 'I very much hope that the brand name is damaged by the justified furore which surrounded Celebrity Big Brother.

'It shows people are voting with their feet and I welcome that.

'It is time that Channel 4 put on programmes that edify the viewer - rather than drag them down to the pit where the contestants are living.' Despite the ratings, Channel 4 has hailed the opening night as a success, claiming Big Brother was up against stiff competition in the form of ITV's Soap Awards.

A spokesman also said that the show had peaked at about 8million viewers.

But the channel is still reeling after Ofcom last week found it guilty of 'serious editorial misjudgment'. The watchdog said the network broke broadcasting laws on three occasions by airing racist insults made towards actress Shilpa Shetty.

The station was also accused of trying to cover up the worst of the bullying, after investigators uncovered unseen footage of housemates alluding to racial insults in a game of limericks.

The incidents prompted more than 50,000 complaints and claims that Channel 4 had 'milked' the controversy - and tried to cover up the worst instances of racism.

The broadcaster is also facing an outcry caused by its decision to screen a documentary featuring a 'distressing and sensationalist' photograph of Princess Diana dying in 1997.
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