[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Tourette's housemate 'exploited'
Pete on his way in to the Big Brother house
Pete has said he wants to become a 'famous Touretter'
Campaigners have accused Channel 4's Big Brother of exploiting a man with Tourette Syndrome by accepting him as one of this year's housemates.

Pete Bennett, 24, who lives in Brighton, has a severe form of the condition and swears uncontrollably.

Roy Hillard, of the Tourette Association, said Pete could suffer in the house, and parents were concerned their children could be mocked.

But Channel 4 said Pete's inclusion could educate people about Tourette's.

Pete's approach to his condition is very positive, and one which might help educate and inform others
Channel 4 spokeswoman

Pete was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was 14, and admits he had a difficult time growing up with the condition.

The aspiring rock singer has said that one of the things he wants to achieve by going on Big Brother is to be a "famous Touretter".

Tourette Syndrome is a complex and debilitating neurological disorder, which affects about 1% of the population.

It is usually - wrongly - simply associated with inappropriate swearing in public, but this symptom affects very few people with the condition.

The most common symptoms are verbal or physical tics, such as shoulder shrugging, tongue clicking.

People with the condition may also jump about, utter words out of context or repeat sounds, words or phrase just heard.

'Adverse effect'

Roy Hillard, president of the UK's Tourette Association, said it had been against Pete going into the Big Brother house.

He said: "I would like to hope that Pete's inclusion will raise awareness of the condition, and do some good.

It could make the lives of children with Tourette Syndrome worse
Roy Hillard, Tourette Syndrome Association

"But, on balance, I think it will have adverse effects.

"Pete says he wants to do this for Tourette's. But what worries me is if he's in there for many weeks.

"He is obviously not taking medication, and in that atmosphere - which is very stressful, his condition is likely to get worse."

And people with Tourette Syndrome could suffer because of the programme, he said.

"It could especially affect children.

"If people they are at school with see someone on TV with a specific tic, making certain noises or shouting out certain words, some are going to be moved to mock.

"It could make the lives of children with Tourette Syndrome worse."


But a spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: "Pete was chosen solely on the basis of his personality. We feel he will be a great housemate."

She said no one would be prevented from being a housemate because of a disability.

"We feel Pete is a very confident and creative individual who is totally upfront about his Tourette's.

"Pete's approach to his condition is very positive, and one which might help educate and inform others.

"As we do every year, we have ensured that all housemates are robust enough to survive the Big Brother experience."

Big Brother gets record ratings
19 May 06 |  Entertainment
'Twisted' Brother opens its doors
18 May 06 |  Entertainment
Tourette Syndrome
15 Jul 03 |  Medical notes

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific