Scandal and controversy are a true recipe for commercial success. And with the format of the Big Brother being such that everyone in the world can see what a person does in private, the people get naturally interested. The commercial success of any program depends on the number of users it gets and the public debate it generates (read: media coverage)-more so for a reality TV program like Endemol’s Big Brother. Since its inception in Netherlands, the show has spread into many other countries, which has introduced the cultural element to it.
How different people react when two different people with different backgrounds, ideas, perspectives and interests are forced to live together under one roof for a considerable period of time provides entertainment to the masses. And the figures show this. From 3 million in the first week, the show had 8. 8 million viewers at its peak for the recently-concluded, controversy-marred Celebrity Big Brother in UK. The Big Brother brand earns 10 percent of the revenues of Channel 4 which broadcasts Celebrity Big Brother.
With Big Brother open for public debate, controversy is created for the smallest of reasons, since the participants are treated as minor celebrities by the masses. Sometimes, the views included racism, gender bias, sex, etc. which have again led to media activism and public debate regarding the views of the bourgeoisie and subsequent problems. The format is suited for the masses, because on the one hand, you see how a person reacts in public, while on the other, you see how they actually feel through the ‘Diary Room’.
The housemates have to work according to the orders of the ‘Big Brother’, which makes it doubly interesting to see how these people live under stressful conditions. And with the voting being done both by the public and the participants on whom to evict from the house, the interest level of the masses automatically goes up, since their decision influences the eviction. That the show is a commercial success is proved by the fact that continuous video streaming facility is available on the Internet, where the people can see 24-hour feeds of what the housemates were actually doing, and people were actually ready to pay to get these feeds.
The show is also used for psychological studies by scientists. German scientists even discovered that the participants are likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, generally seen in those who leave armed forces. A lot of interest also goes into the fact that even in this age of liberalization and globalization, the state of race, gender and class relations is primeval. And it comes out in the open due to the realistic nature of the show. The fact that such problems exist even in democratic, egalitarian societies increases the interest of the viewer and makes the program commercially successful.
The show has been criticized by experts from everything ranging from the concept of the program to how problems like racism are used to maximize profits. Yet the fan following of these programs belies the wildest of imaginations. Also with the media available today, it is easy to vocalize opinion across the borders. And the program is benefiting commercially from all this hype. The success of the program in some countries may well be because it challenges the ways in which the society operates, in an honest and real manner rather than being acted out as in a soap opera.
And being inherently different from the soap opera gives the masses something different to watch, something to which they can relate more. It gives a platform to the audience to evaluate and contemplate the existing societal order. Big Brother is about interacting with the audience-and getting people to decide the fates of participants. Interactive TV provides such incentives to the general public and is responsible for making the show such a commercial success. References: 1. Big Brother (TV series) Available on http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Big_Brother_(TV_series) 2. When the Whole World is Watching: The Case of Celebrity Big Brother
Available on http://flowtv. org/? p=247 3. November 2002, Celebrity Big Brother Offers Even More Interaction Available on http://www. bbc. co. uk/pressoffice/bbcworldwide/worldwidestories/pressreleases/2002/11_november/audiocall_celebrity_bb. shtml 4. Hanks Robert, January 2007, First Night: Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 4 Available on http://news. independent. co. uk/media/article2124296. ece 5. Big Brother Available on http://www. bigbrother. com/big-brother. php 6. Big Brother International: Formats, Critics and Publics Available on http://www. wallflowerpress. co. uk/publications/television/big_brother. html