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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Big Brother goes digital
Big Brother house, 2001
One bedroom has an en-suite bathroom this year
The new series of Big Brother will run for up to 21 hours a day on digital network E4, Channel 4 has announced.

Fans will be able to spy on the house on TV all day long, and many will be able to make their weekly eviction votes through their remote control.

Daily updates of the show, which returns at the end of May, will continue to be carried on Channel 4, with Davina McCall returning to host the Friday eviction programme.

Up to 10 million viewers watched the final instalment of Big Brother last year, which saw 10 contestants living inside a camera-filled east London house for nine weeks.

Nick Bateman
Nick Bateman's eviction was a highlight of the last series
As with last year's programme, viewers will also be able to watch the goings-on in the house on the internet.

Mobile phone users will also be able to follow the action, thanks to a 4 million sponsorship deal with network operator BT Cellnet.

Digital TV feeds from the house will be available on E4 from around 2300 BST to 2000 BST daily, and a range of interactive services will be provided, although these will vary between Sky, Ondigital and cable customers.

More than 50,000 people requested an application form to take part in the series, and about 5,000 videos were received - compared with just 700 for the first series.

Producers are now selecting the final 10 contestants, who will be playing for the 70,000 top prize.

Executive producer Conrad Green said: "We are looking for a mix of interesting, positive and enthusiastic personalities.

"The 10 finalists will be those who have really captured our attention, and made us want to know more."

Revamped house

The house, behind a film studio in Bow, has been completely revamped for the new series - Channel 4 dubs the new style "cabin fever" - and contains 37 cameras and 40 microphones.

Nichola Holt and Caroline O'Shea
Brief fame: Contestants Nichola Holt and Caroline O'Shea
Channel 4 commissioning editor Liz Warner said: "Big Brother was the biggest and most innovative TV project Channel 4 had embarked upon.

"This year, with E4's involvement, interactive TV and text messages, we are pushing the boundaries further."

Big Brother started life in the Netherlands in 1999, and its first British run last summer made celebrities of its contestants - particularly "Nasty" Nick Bateman, who was thrown out of the house for cheating.

Channel 4 and the BBC joined forces earlier this year to show a celebrity version of the programme for Comic Relief, which was won by comedian Jack Dee.

Big Brother house, 2001
Cameras will still be in the new-look toilets
It is unclear whether contestants - who will be totally cut off from the outside world - will be able to take part in next month's general election.

They will be among the last to know the winners of the 7 June poll, and now the election date has been confirmed, producers are now working out how to tackle the issue.

A spokesman said: "Now the election has been called we will have to consider how we give the housemates access to their rights and we will decide in due course."

See also:

03 May 01 | TV and Radio
Watchdog bites French Big Brother
24 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Big Brother contestants muzzled
17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Dee big winner of Big Brother
04 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Reality TV still a hit
16 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Big Brother's Craig still in spotlight
27 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
US gets bigger, better Big Brother
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