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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Viewers question reality TV
'Nasty' Nick leaving Big Brother
Viewers "watch to see contestants' masks drop"
Television viewers are becoming increasingly cynical about reality game shows, according to a study.

The viewers have become aware of how contestants "act up", and now look for "moments of truth" that reveal a person's real nature.

Programme makers need to regain their viewers' trust, according to Dr Annette Hill, of the University of Westminster.


We have to ask... whether... reality TV such as Big Brother will shape viewers' attitudes and responses to the news

Dr Annette Hill
University of Westminster
Dr Hill found 70% of adults and children watched shows including docu-soaps and reality game shows such as Big Brother and Popstars.

Their popularity spark more discussions on topics such as ethics and privacy, according to Dr Hill.

"We found that, in general, people like to see what happens behind the scenes - which is why programmes such as Airport are so popular," she told BBC News Online.

"It's partly due to nosiness and partly because viewers like to follow other people's stories.

I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here
I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here is the latest reality show
"We all seem to have a fascination with entertainment stories about real people," she said.

It could go too far if viewers believed that what they were seeing on such shows was the whole truth, she added.

But as the shows become more popular, viewers increasingly look for the mask to drop - such as the incident that saw Big Brother's Nasty Nick thrown off the first series of the UK show.

Dr Hill questioned whether viewers would look at news and other factual programmes differently after getting used to reality shows.

"News programmes, such as those allowing us to witness significant events as they unfold, inevitably shape viewers' attitudes to reality TV," she said.

True life

"What we have to ask is whether in the future reality TV such as Big Brother will shape viewers' attitudes and responses to the news."

Some 67% of those questioned said they liked to watch people in everyday places, such as airports, while 64% opted for shows based on true-life experiences about the emergency services, driving, first aid or pets.

Among the same group, 28% named shows which put people in manufactured situations, such as Survivor or Big Brother.

More than 8,000 adults and 900 children were surveyed for the research, which was carried out in 2000-2001.

See also:

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