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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
BBC defends Fame Academy
Fame Academy contestant Marli Buck
Marli Buck has been given odds of 5-1 to win
The BBC has defended its talent show Fame Academy after its first edition was watched by less than five million viewers.

Unofficial figures show a total of 4.6 million people watched the debut of the show, where a group of students will be trained by experts to compete for a 1m recording contract.

By contrast the debut of Popstars: The Rivals on 7 September pulled an audience of 7.4 million for ITV1, according to the same figures.

Open in new window : BBC Fame Academy
Meet the contestants

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We are happy with the programme.

"We hope viewers will continue to watch as the series continues and the progress of the students develop.

"This was only the first episode."

Friday's figures for Fame Academy were less than the 5.1 million who tuned into the Richard Gere and Julia Roberts film Runaway Bride on ITV1.

Headmaster's criticsm

About 7.5 million tuned in to Popstars: The Rivals on Saturday, in which the 10 male finalists were revealed.

The later programme, revealing the female finalists, attracted 6.1 million.

Fame Academy contestants
Fame Academy students hope to pull in viewers
But Richard Park, headmaster of Fame Academy, told BBC Radio Five Live he was not interested in ratings - his job was to help provide "big talent for the future".

"One thing will lead to another when the word gets out," he told the Simon Mayo show.

"All this criticism is coming after the first show, and I am leading the criticism.

"If I was marking it out of 100 I would give it 15."

He is one of the experts who is putting the students through their paces at the mansion in north London.

Favourite

Nursing assistant Marli Buck is so far the bookies' favourite to win the talent show.

The 27-year-old has been given odds of 5-1 by bookmakers Coral, from her original odds of 10-1, following the opening show.

Popstars The Rivals contestants Anton and Emma
Anton Gordon and Emma Beard are among the Popstars finalists
"This is the first gamble we have seen on a Fame Academy contestant, but it is unlikely to be the last," said Coral spokesman David Stevens.

Second favourites, each with odds of 6-1, were beautician Camilla Beeput and student Pippa Fulton, both 20, and the show's youngest contestant, 18-year-old Katie Lewis.

The 16-1 outsiders are 28-year-old teacher Ashley House, singer songwriter Ainslie Henderson, 23, and the oldest competitor, 31-year-old father-of-four Nigel Wilson.

Viewers vote

Meanwhile 20 finalists in Popstars: The Rivals will live in two luxury mansions.

Next Saturday viewers will vote one of the men out before it is one of the women's turn the following week.

The final two groups will consist of five members.

On Fame Academy the public will have the chance to vote one of the nominees out each week, in a live show which will see them having to sing for their survival.


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05 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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