Socialist Worker

A sewer-fire hit

Issue No. 1711

I HAVE a confession to make. Yes, I have found myself watching Big Brother. And I know I'm not alone.

Around six and a half million switched on to see 'Nasty Nick' being given the boot. And if you want you can now get the Big Brother CD and T-shirt. The hype around this programme is immense. More people voted in one of the telephone votes to evict a competitor than took part in the elections to the Scottish Parliament.

Big Brother is the stuff of TV producers' dreams. They call it 'water cooler TV'. What they mean by this is that it is the TV programme we all talk about in our tea breaks at work. They encourage this by showing clips of workers all over the country talking about the show.

I was thinking of using this column to justify the reasons why I have watched the programme. My first line of defence was going to be that the programme exposes the class nature of society.

After all, isn't the main reason Nick is hated so much is because he is like a Thatcherite yuppie? Nothing was too low for this man. He even claimed his first wife was killed in an accident-a barefaced lie. The Financial Times asked various 'city experts' if Nick is the kind of man needed in the City of London.

Peter Trowell, a managing director of City Jobs, said, 'I think the chances of him being recruited by a London institution are zilch. 'These days honesty and integrity are near the top of any job specification.'

But a leading senior executive of a City PR firm let the cat out of the bag when he told the paper that Nick was ideal for a career in financial PR: 'Manipulation is what it's all about in this game.' Case proven.

My second argument was that Big Brother is only a game show-so what's the harm? But at the end of the day both arguments miss the point. The premise of the show is to lock people up and deny them any contact with the outside world. Then every move they make is filmed and every conversation is recorded.

If that isn't enough, on the programme's website you can log on at any time of day or night and view the contestants. There are even cameras in the toilet and shower rooms. Channel 4 has refuted the claim that the contestants are being exploited, saying all of them volunteered to do the show.

Of course they volunteered. But that doesn't make it alright. The contestants are desperate to appear on TV. They will do anything to win the £70,000 prize money or land a job as a TV presenter. The hamsters in the show have got more personality than this bunch.

The contestants are sad, vulnerable people. That's why it makes it even more disgusting to see Channel 4 taking advantage of them in order to raise its viewing figures.

Channel 4 is not just exploiting the contestants. It is debasing the viewers as well. By watching Big Brother you too become part of the dehumanising process. One last thing. The man who owns the production company that makes Big Brother is Peter Bazalgette.

The Bazalgette family made their fame and fortune in Victorian England disposing of sewage. So it's nice to see that he is carrying on the family tradition!

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Article information

Sat 26 Aug 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1711
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