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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK


Watching Big Brother

Members of the house are watched all-day long

Some people would, it seems, stop at nothing to get on TV and in the Netherlands nine members of the general public have gone to an extreme.

The BBC's Sumit Bose reports on the popularity of voyeuristic TV in Holland
They have become participants in a live soap called Big Brother - where they are watched by cameras all-day long.

The show is also broadcast on the Internet and has proved a great success in the three weeks since it began.

Big Brother pushes the docu-soap formula to the limits.

[ image: Big Brother also goes out on its own Website]
Big Brother also goes out on its own Website
Programme-makers chose nine ordinary men and women, after giving them a series of psychological tests to test their suitability.

They then put them in a house with no mod-cons and now film them 24 hours a day.

Highlights of each day's events - including all conversations and actions - are broadcast on TV.

The no-holds-barred format has scored a big hit in the Netherlands where millions tune in each night.

The show's producer Paul Romer says the show's appeal is simple.

"I think in every one of us there is a little bit of a voyeur and this show appeals to that feeling," he explains.

Big Brother's "guests" live in a well-isolated, specially-built house. They have a garden in which to grow vegetables and take exercise. But that is all they have in the way of contact with the outside world - and that's monitored too.

[ image: Big Brother's
Big Brother's "guests" are ordinary members of the public
One of the show's three directors, Andre Anten, says he thinks the its popularity stems from its unpredictability.

"It's like live soap... you don't know what is going to happen and that is amazing," he says.

There is also an interactive dimension to Big Brother via the Web. The programme is broadcast continuously on its own Website and viewers can vote for their favourite person.

Members of the household - aged between 22 and 45 - will be eventually voted out until there is only one left on New Year's Eve, who will then win a 90,000 cash prize.

But not everyone is a fan of Big Brother. Its morals have been questioned in the Dutch media.

Two of the guests are forming a relationship and the television company has the right to broadcast the consequences in full.

[ image: Only one member of the house will be left after viewers have voted]
Only one member of the house will be left after viewers have voted
Anten says the participants were made fully aware of what involvement in Big Brother would entail.

"We told our house guests, 'We will not compromise. We are interested in the interaction of human beings within the process of the group'," he says.

In less than a month, Big Brother, on the Veronica channel, has become one of Holland's top-rating shows.

The idea and format has been sold to various broadcasters around the world.

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