What has been the social, cultural, political and technological impact the TV programme Big Brother has had on us, the television viewer?

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What has been the social, cultural, political and technological impact the TV programme Big Brother has had on us, the television viewer?

The TV programme Big Brother has had a massive impact on today’s society for a variety of reasons. Some may say that it is the defining jewel-in-the-crown in reality television; it is without doubt the most recognised and quite possibly the most watched in an expansive genre. Its creation, by a Dutchman for the television company Endemol in 1997, spawned the first broadcast of the programme in Great Britain shortly after in 2000. And so the fly-on-the-wall docu-soap was born, followed by variations to the theme and structure, but in essence keeping the same core format of members of the public being kept locked away in a house, their every move captured by 30 cameras. The housemates are, for the most part, isolated within the house. They are allowed no access to the outside world using any medium and in some shows, even books and writing material are not permitted, with the exception of religious materials such as the Bible. They perform tasks in order to win prizes and extend their shopping budget for the week. In previous years, the contestants were usually young, good-looking and charismatic, but as the show has grown in popularity, and therefore attracted a wider viewing demographic, they have gone for a mixture of people, old and young, good-looking and not so good-looking. The show makes celebrities out of members of the public. No other show, in the past, has made people over-night celebrities quite like “Big Brother”. And the presenters, who were relative unknowns before the programme began, have now reached superstardom- from the main presenter Davina McCall to the voice behind the narration, Marcus Bentley.

Never has the media been so intrusive or voyeuristic on the general public’s lives. There is the element of voyeurism of the actual show, where producers, the viewing public and the media can look into the goldfish bowl and make assertions and draw observations, with news stories and gossip columns full aplenty with people claiming to have slept with a “Big Brother” contestants in the past. These kiss-and-tell stories have long been a feature of tabloids, but never before have members of the public, which is what essentially the housemates are, been given so much media coverage. Pictures of ex-housemates worse for wear after a night out is another tabloid favourite, and gossip magazines such as “Heat” seem to always have exclusives on potential relationships between the housemates. There have in fact been several marriages between housemates, much to the delight of glossy magazines.

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The fact that they are locked away and observed 24 hours a day by the public is, by and large, a new televisual concept. Here we have a dozen people from all walks of life, of all races, religions, sexual orientations. They are, essentially, a cross-section of society. They are everyday people- they are certainly not superheroes or monsters, and yet their quirks and eccentricities make them appear more extraordinary than most of us. Big Brother’s producers stop at nothing in their selection process. In 2006, the show had a man with Tourettes syndrome in the house, and he went ...

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