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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 16:58 GMT
Big Brother firms put under spotlight
Celebrity Big Brother
Channel Four has faced a battery of criticism
Amid the storm over alleged racist comments in Celebrity Big Brother, the show's makers have been cast as both winners and losers.

Peak audiences for the series jumped from 3.5 million on Monday to 5.2 million on Wednesday, and the show has been making front page headlines for days.

But the withdrawal of main sponsor Carphone Warehouse may have demonstrated there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Some observers now feel producers Endemol and Channel 4 are finally facing the consequences of their decision-making.

Last year's deal to sponsor Big Brother was estimated to have been worth about 4.5m, by far the show's largest advertising revenue source.

Cynical intentions

But the media interest since the stories hinting at racism on the show first emerged proved too intense for Carphone Warehouse to ignore.

A statement from the firm said Channel 4 had failed to address concerns over the show's content, and demanded its branding be removed from future broadcasts.

This reflects much of the criticism which has been directed at Channel 4 and Endemol, the production company behind the Big Brother format.

The Times said Channel 4 "has either been complicit in promoting the racial bullying to boost ratings or, worse, cynically contrived a cast list to elicit a row".

Man watching Celebrity Big Brother
(Endemol) have deliberately chosen to broadcast participants' racist comments
Ken Livingstone, London Mayor
The Independent called for changes in attitudes to reality TV.

"And that means not just Jade Goody and her unattractive companions but the television channel which profits from broadcasting her excesses," it said.

The Daily Express added: "Big Brother and, in particular, the celebrity version, has always thrived on a triumvirate of bad behaviour, bickering and breakdowns between characters chosen on the basis that they will undoubtedly fail to get on with one another."

Andy Duncan, Channel 4's chief executive, has refused to dump the show from schedules and defended its handling of the issue, saying the housemates' actions were "closely monitored".

Big Brother is of huge significance to the channel, pulling in audiences of over 7 million for launch and results shows and particularly appealing to the difficult to reach 16-24 age group.

Endemol, which owns the format, has come in for equally fiery treatment.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "Endemol is editing down 24 hours of coverage to one hour and it is therefore clear they have deliberately chosen to broadcast participants' racist comments."

'No control'

While denying clashes would be orchestrated, a Big Brother insider admitted there was a need to choose "big personalities" for reality TV shows.

They said: "The aim is to make interesting and entertaining programmes and so you choose people who will help that.

"The idea of returning Jade to the house was likely to be enough to get headlines and the show had never had someone like Shilpa on before, she was a housemate likely to appeal to a new part of the audience.

"Once they go inside the house it's kind of out of the control of the makers."

Away from Big Brother, Endemol and Channel 4 have concerns of their own, with Channel 4 facing falling profits and questions over it being sold off to the private sector.

Endemol's net profit rose 20% to 46m euros last year but Telefonica, its Spanish parent company, wants to sell off its controlling stake.

In November, Channel 4 secured the rights to Big Brother until 2010 in a deal worth up to a reported 180m.

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