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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Big Brother offers 'role models'
Big Brother's Sam
Channel 4 has commissioned two more series of the show
Reality TV show Big Brother portrays role models with values that inspire its viewers, the chief executive of Channel 4 has said.

Andy Duncan said the show offered positive values, transformatory experiences and examples of personal self-improvement and growth.

He added the contestants had "honesty, integrity, constancy and kindness".

Mr Duncan, a practising Christian, was talking to a Christian group about his channel's religious output.

Personal growth

He added that while he understood some may find the behaviour and language of some Big Brother contestants immoral, he urged fellow Christians to reassess their views on the popular series.

"Tolerance and understanding of others - fundamental New Testament values - can only be built on knowledge and respect. Condemnation so often springs from ignorance and fear," he said.

"Big Brother winners are all role models in their way, not only because over past series they've included ethnic minorities, a gay man, a transsexual as well as an evangelical Christian, but because in the final analysis viewers choose people whose values they identify with and admire.

Andy Duncan
Mr Duncan joined Channel 4 in July last year

"For many viewers they offer positive examples and practical inspiration for their own lives, and that's something I'm certainly not ashamed of."

Mr Duncan referred to a speech given by BBC director general Mark Thompson earlier this month to the Churches' Media Conference, on religion in the media.

In it, Mr Thompson said traditional Judaeo-Christian morality was central in many drama and documentaries.

"I'd argue in reality shows like Fame Academy and Big Brother, the qualities audiences are finally invited to empathise with and admire are honesty, integrity, constancy, kindness," he said.

Mr Duncan said those qualities were demonstrated by previous winners of Big Brother.

The current Big Brother series has also seen contestants drinking heavily, swearing at each other and swapping sexual favours.

Mr Duncan's lecture to social action movement Faithworks examined whether television has a responsibility to build trust in society.

Christian values

He made his comments just days after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, launched an attack on the media, accusing journalists of causing an "embarrassingly low level of trust" in the profession.

While Mr Duncan said he agreed with some things Dr Rowan had to say, he believed public service television was a "powerful potential for good", citing Jamie's School Dinners as an example.

He added: "I wouldn't be at Channel 4 if I felt the organisation, its culture, or the job itself, were in any way at odds with my Christian values.

"These inform my behaviour, my relationships with colleagues, and the everyday judgements I make."

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