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Since its launch in 2000, the concept and implementation of Big Brother UK and Celebrity Big Brother has regularly been the subject of controversy and criticism among the British public and news media. There have been various investigations by numerous organisations, including TV watchdogs and the police. Throughout several series of the show, several housemates have been accused of cheating, bullying and prejudice towards other housemates, including racism and homophobia.
- 1 Big Brother
- 2 Celebrity Big Brother
- 3 Teen Big Brother
- 4 Ultimate Big Brother
- 5 References
In this first series, "Nasty" Nick Bateman was asked to leave the show after 36 days after being exposed trying to manipulate fellow housemates' votes in the weekly eviction process. Ironically he was the most popular housemate at the time. Such was the media interest in this first series of the show, the news that Nick had been thrown out featured on the front page of every national newspaper in the UK apart from the Financial Times, which had the story on page 3.
At various points, in this series the housemates seemed to form two separate groups, and it was commentated both by the housemates themselves and in the press that this separation was along race lines (though there was never any explicit suggestion that this was anything more than coincidence).
Ofcom received four complaints regarding a scene where housemates Michelle Bass and Stuart Wilson appeared to have sex under a dining table. These complaints were not upheld, as "no nudity or actual sexual activity was broadcast".
On Day 20, commonly referred to as 'Fight Night', volatile ex-Housemates Emma Greenwood and Michelle Bass returned to the Big Brother house after a fake eviction. Some of the other Housemates were extremely displeased, and after a series of arguments, an aggressive brawl began, prompting on-set security guards being called into the house to calm the situation for the first - and only - time in the show's history.
Viewers of the show's live internet stream called the police to inform them of the violent activity, shortly before the live transmission was taken off the air, until the situation was rectified. Ofcom upheld 55 complaints from viewers, saying that the footage was "distressing to watch" and "exceeded the viewers' expectations".
In week 2 of the sixth series, Lesley Sanderson began bullying Sam Heuston, often making remarks about Sam's body, and threatening Sam with violence. Big Brother gave Lesley a warning and the pair made up. However, Sam was verbally attacked by fellow housemate Derek Laud. Despite Derek and Sam initially getting the most nomination votes, the entire house was put up for the public vote as punishment for fellow housemate Vanessa McIntosh discussing that she would nominate Sam. Because of this punishment, Lesley became the second evictee, and left the house to a harsh reception. Later in the series, Orlaith McAllister quit the show after claiming she was being bullied by Derek Laud.
This series was heavily criticised for the amount of nudity shown on the show; after a midnight "romp" in the pool Housemate Makosi claimed to have conceived Anthony Hutton's child and asked for a pregnancy test. In addition, Housemate Kinga gained infamy after masturbating with a wine bottle in the garden.
Following the final of this series, media watchdog Ofcom received over 450 complaints from viewers about host Davina McCall. During the interview, the live crowd chanted the words "off, off, off" and "liar, liar, liar" at contestant Makosi. Viewers complained that McCall did nothing to stop the crowd, and some complained that she encouraged it. Ofcom confirmed that they launched an investigation into the events.
On Day 14, Roberto Conte threw food over Maxwell Ward's head during an argument. On Day 35, Maxwell was reprimanded for throwing a glass of water over Kemal Shahin whilst he was in bed, this was after the two had an argument involving Saskia Howard Clarke.
A contest allowing holders of golden tickets - found in Kit Kat chocolate bars - to be invited to a television show where one of them, Susie Verrico, was chosen to enter the House by Aisleyne picking a ball out of a machine at random caused some controversy, with the Advertising Standards Authority saying that the terms and conditions of the draw should have been made clearer in related advertisements.
This series came under immediate criticism when critics claimed that Big Brother had deliberately put unstable people into the House. Pete Bennett suffered from Tourette syndrome, Shahbaz was revealed to be mentally and emotionally unstable and threatened to commit suicide on live television; Lea suffers from body dysmorphic disorder; Sam has admitted to being shunned by family members because of his homosexuality, and possible gender identity disorder; and Nikki has suffered from anorexia and been sectioned in the past due to the condition. A spokeswoman for mental health charity SANE claimed that producers are "playing fast and loose with people's lives." A spokesperson for Rethink commented "The programme should not profit from people having a breakdown." A spokesman defended the show saying that a psychologist is always available for housemates.
Seven days into the show, Dawn Blake received a message in the house from her family, via Big Brother, informing her that her sister was ill. It was later revealed that this was a code, which she had set up with her family to give her, had there been any negative publicity regarding her appearance. Having decided that she had broken the rule regarding contact with the outside world, Big Brother removed her from the house. Subsequently, Dawn complained to Ofcom, saying that she was unfairly represented on the programme (and some editions of Big Brother's Little Brother and Big Brother's Big Mouth) regarding accusations of cheating, her body odour and being kept in the house against her will. Her complaints were not upheld.
Further criticism arose when Glyn Wise was reprimanded for communicating in his first language, Welsh, to Imogen Thomas. Big Brother deemed this a form of 'code' and issued a warning to Glyn, who retorted "But Welsh is British". Following the incident, the Welsh Language Society complained to Channel 4, Ofcom and S4C. Clearly, it was no longer a problem after this as Glyn and Imogen continued to converse in Welsh. Such discussions were broadcast with English subtitles.
The decision to allow previous evictees to become eligible to win the show was also criticised. Channel 4 received 500 complaints from viewers about this matter and Media watchdog Ofcom confirmed that it had received over 1,000 complaints, and referred viewers to ICSTIS. Soon after the four ex-housemates entered the House Next Door, ICSTIS released a statement confirming that it was dealing with over 2,500 complaints and launched an official investigation. On 5 October 2006, they ruled that Channel 4 had breached its code and imposed £50,000 'administrative charges'.
Nine days into the series, Channel 4 was criticised for deciding to air the word "nigger" on their daily highlights show. After the criticism they received for not handling the Celebrity Big Brother racism allegations properly back in January, they were quick to intervene after Emily Parr used the word in conversation with Charley Uchea. On the other hand, Charley and Nicky Maxwell subsequently used the same contentious word several times, in reference to Emily's use. No action was seen to be taken against them. After Emily's disqualification from the competition was announced, 922 viewers complained to Ofcom, the British television regulator, believing that it was unfair. Another 270 people expressed dissatisfaction with Channel 4's decision to air the word "nigger" uncensored.
Furthermore, on Day 40, Channel 4 confirmed that Charley had been called to the Diary Room and reprimanded after using the word "nigger" twice on one night. This was not broadcast on the nightly highlights programme or the live feed, further inflaming rumours about favouritism towards Charley. A Big Brother spokesperson claimed "Charley used the N-word as a black woman to refer to another black person. We judged her use of the term different from Emily's. But Big Brother called her to the Diary Room to remind her that this word could cause offence."
Charley was given a third and final warning by Big Brother on Day 55 when she implied that housemate Gerry Stergiopoulos was a paedophile. Over 300 people complained to Ofcom when Charley said that Gerry liked to "sleep with 15-year-olds".
There were also complaints to Ofcom regarding Laura Williams's use of the word "poof", and why it was not treated as seriously as the use of the word "nigger". However, Laura was given a warning for the use of the word, which was broadcast as part of a highlights episode.
Within the first week of the series, media watchdog Ofcom and Channel 4 had collectively received over 433 complaints about alleged bullying from housemate Alexandra, after an argument broke out between her and the other housemates regarding oven chips. Channel 4 defended its housemate selection, claiming that the production team were closely watching the housemates as they normally do to ensure the safety of the housemates. The broadcaster also noted that Alexandra had been warned that her behaviour could be deemed threatening. On Day 14 she was ejected from the house after apparently threatening to have housemates who nominated her for eviction dealt with by her "gangster friends".
During week 12, Darnell Swallow and Rex Newmark both received warnings of unacceptable behaviour from Big Brother after they appeared to be bullying Sara Folino. This was after more than 1500 people complained to Ofcom about their alleged sexist behaviour.
Early in the morning on Day 23 - often referred to as 'Fight Night 2' or 'Spitgate' - a major argument began when Rex Newmark smudged a piece of pizza on Jennifer Clark's winning drawing of Stuart Pilkington from a task earlier in the week. Although she accepted Rex's apology Jennifer became increasingly agitated and upset, attracting a number of housemates to the luxury bedroom. Tension increased among the housemates, and as the arguments continued, Dennis McHugh appeared to spit in Mohamed Mohamed's face. Dennis later claimed however that no spit had actually left his mouth and hit Mohamed. For the second time in the show's history, the live feed was cut, and Big Brother ordered housemates to separate themselves. Dennis was ejected from the house due to his actions, which were deemed as unacceptable behaviour by Big Brother.
In the early stages of this series, it was reported by tabloid newspaper The Sun that housemate Sree was in the UK illegally. The newspaper said that a spokesperson for the show had confirmed that Sree had meetings with immigration lawyers whilst inside the house. Prior to the launch of this series, it was announced that the live feed, which used to air footage from the House throughout the day on E4, would be reduced to seven hours of programming per day. Channel 4 was criticised for this, receiving 99 complaints; Big Brother became the programme with the most complaints in the month of May 2009 before having even broadcast its first episode. The decision attracted comment, via Twitter, from programme presenter Davina McCall, who encouraged campaigners to protest by signing online petitions. A poll conducted by Heat magazine showed a majority in favour of reinstating the live feed. Channel 4 told members of the Digital Spy forums that it stuck by its decision and justified the reduction, noting that similar reality TV programmes such as ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! had also reduced live feeds. The intensity of the situation increased after an e-mail was received by Channel 4, threatening the life of Chief Executive Andy Duncan's daughter if the live feed was not reinstated. In a statement, Channel 4 confirmed that it was taking the situation seriously and had alerted the police.
Sree Desari accused Marcus Akin of racially mocking his voice. Marcus was reprimanded by Big Brother but fought his innocence, telling Big Brother that they have become too politically correct, and pointing out that they would not tell him off if he imitated Charlie Drummond's Geordie accent. Three weeks later, Marcus was reprimanded for threatening to punch Tom Oliver, however Tom was not present during this threat.
Kenneth Tong threatened to kill Bea Hammill after she refused to take part in a secret mission set for the new housemates. Claiming that he "sat across from some of the world's most dangerous men", he then made a gesture to imply that he could have her killed, but Hammill was not present at the time of this threat. Charlie Drummond, who was present at the time, told Bea and she complained to Big Brother in the Diary Room. Kenneth was later given a warning, but viewers also complained about this, believing that Big Brother should have punished him straight away. Kenneth then quit the show after less than a week.
Freddie Fisher (formerly named Halfwit) was continuously victimised and often scapegoated by his fellow housemates, with housemates Karly Ashworth, Kris Donnelly and Lisa Wallace, being labeled as 'bullies' by the public. Furthermore, Fisher was nominated for five consecutive evictions in the first five weeks of the show. The housemates eventually grew to accept him by the fifth week (an incident in which Fisher berated Noirin Kelly for her reaction to comments by fellow housemate Siavash was later cited as a reason for this), and Donnelly and Ashworth were evicted in Week 5 and Week 6 respectively.
Upon entering the Big Brother House, contestant Saffia Corden was condemned by children’s charity Kidscape for leaving her seven year-old daughter and her 13 month-old son in the care of her mother in order to participate in the programme. Concerned viewers established groups on social networking website Facebook in protest of the situation, with over 980 joining one group alone within the programme’s first five days. However, Corden was seen crying over pictures of her children in the House and relatives and friends defended her in the press.
In the early stages of the series, John James declared that he "hates" his fellow housemate Rachael White, adding that he hates "girls that are arrogant purely because [of] what they look like." and that Rachael "looks down on people." John James confronted Rachael about their differences, claiming to have an issue with her facial expressions, which he interpreted as being arrogant. White claimed that the conflict hurt her feelings and was concerned that John James left the room whenever she entered. In a conversation during dinner, White, along with a number of other female contestants made comments about wishing to appear in Nuts magazine. Following the conversation John James commented that they're "not rock stars" and began what the Mirror called a "foul-mouthed tirade" in protest to the discussion. White commented that she felt the protest was a "personal attack" on herself and was reduced to tears. In a later disagreement, John James said that the reason he took an instant dislike to her was because of a video tape of White which was aired on the opening night. He was described as "shouting across the bedroom" and again reduced White to tears. B
The first Channel 5 main series of Big Brother contained frequent nudity and sexual discussions from very early in the series. Discussions of a sexual nature featured frequently, and there was a higher level of nudity - in particular from male housemates when showering on camera and during pranks - than was commonly seen in previous years. An example was a 'naked Conga' dance led by Mark and Tom who were shown fully naked in the edited highlights show during Week 1.
Over 1,000 complaints were made to Ofcom about the alleged bullying of Deana Uppal by Conor McIntyre. During the episode, housemates took part in a task called "Confusing Cuisine" which involved them each eating a dish that was either a nasty food disguised as treat, or vice versa. Deana sparked anger by being the only person to spit out her spam-based dish. Later, after Caroline Wharram accused Deana of leaving her leg hair on the dining table, Conor ranted about Deana, pretending her epilator was a microphone and sarcastically singing obscene things about her into it.
Wharram: Deana, come here.
Wharram: Come here.
Uppal: I'm washing up.
Wharram: No, come here. Apparently, did you do some epilating at the kitchen table?
Uppal: Is it there?
Wharram: Yeah! No, come have a look. Deana, your leg hair is on the kitchen table!
Uppal: What are you saying? That I used my epilator at the kitchen table?
Wharram: Yes! I can see it!
Uppal: Oh, shut up... I think it's your pubes!
Arron Lowe: How inappropriate!
Wharram: Soooo inappropriate!
McIntyre: Get your epilator, stick it up your ass. We don't give a fuck. Because I'm gonna smash your fuckin' face in, you fuckin piece of shit.
Ashleigh Hughes: Maybe you need to play fun games with her tonight.
McIntyre: With who? I'll give her a fun game, I'll stick this up her fucking minge, stupid bastard! I'll give her a fuckin' epilator! (pushes brush upwards and back down while making blowing sound) I'm gonna play loadsa pranks on her, because she's a fuckin' piece of shit! I don't give a fuck if I get pulled up to the Diary Room, so it could be my...
Hughes: Wait, but what if she gets you back with water?
Hughes: What if she, say she if you got her with water like Arron?
McIntyre: And she threw it over me?
Hughes: Yeah.McIntyre: I'd punch her in the face. Just knock her out. I'd say, 'get up off the mat you piece of shit!'.—25 June 2012
Prior to the start of this series, Channel 5 was warned by Scotland Yard about the risks of including housemate Dan Neal, a former police officer who had participated in the investigation into Operation Yewtree, the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.
On Day 2, Gina Rio - who only entered the house that evening complained about a lack of make-up wipes, Sallie Axl - who arrived the day before and was not granted her suitcase, began an argument with Rio, telling Rio who was standing some distance away from her in conversation with Dan to get away from her. Gina then approached Sallie and as she did Sallie told Gina she looked like a prostitute. Gina retorted and Salliie began to retort simultaneously violently shaking herself as she gestured her clothes that Gina was criticising, to which Gina then aggressively attempted to pull her hat off before being pulled away. Gina was issued a formal warning by Big Brother, becoming the first ever housemate to be issued a formal warning within their first 24 hours. The next morning, Sallie started the argument again by telling Gina she was ugly and that she should get some tattoos on her face; Gina retorted by telling Sallie she is a 'skid mark on society'.
On Day 4, fake housemate Michael Dylan was talking to Jemima Slade about relationships - Gina was present throughout the conversation, Jemima stated she likes 'dark' men, but quickly pointed out that she is into a Mediterranean look rather than black men. Gina asked her to elaborate, to which Slade stated it was just a personal preference and that she is interested in mixed race and Indian men. Later that evening, Gina told other housemates that she was offended by Slade's comments, she asked Jemima for a private word, in which she accused her of being a racist. Jemima defended herself, but also pointed out that she is not interested in Chinese men either. The argument became personal with both women reminding each other that they do not like one another. Jemima was later issued with a formal warning by Big Brother, but she defended her choice of words as being a preference, similar to how some people may prefer blondes over brunettes or people with blue eyes over brown eyes.
On Day 22, Dexter Koh received an official warning for comments he made in an attempt to annoy Sophie Lawrence (who is of Traveller descent), as part of a task, which were deemed to have been offensive to the Traveller community.
Early in the morning on Day 33, Daley Ojuederie and Hazel O'Sullivan were in the Safe House together, in their respective beds. Hazel wanted a cuddle from Daley, who refused and said he wanted to sleep. Daley threw his pillow at Hazel, who responded by coming over to his bed, repeatedly whacking him with the same pillow and then put her own pillow over his face, making him temporarily unable to breathe (although he was laughing during this). She slapped his behind and he smacked hers, then she screamed and pulled his cover off of him. Daley stood up and came over to her bed and temporarily collapsed, saying he had heartburn. He waited several seconds before spanking Hazel again, harder this time. He told her to give him his cover back, but she refused. Daley said "What, do you want me to go fucking mad?" and Hazel said "Yeah. You should go mad." Daley said "Do you remember when I said, yeah? When I go mad, it's fucking scary. Doesn't mean I'm gonna hit you, but it's scary shit." Daley then said "Get the fuck off my cover." and Hazel pulled his shorts off, leaving him naked for a fraction of a second. Daley slipped off Hazel's bed while pulling his shorts back up and called her a "bitch". He asked for it back again and Hazel said "How about we do something really sensible and resolve this friendly with a hug." Daley said "OK" and took back his cover after Hazel moved off it. He went, "Let me tell you something little girl. Have some respect for your fucking elder, 'cause if you don't", Hazel said "What will you do about it?" and Daley said "I'll finish you." Hazel said "I think I'd finish you quicker." (abviously in a different manner of speaking) Hazel admitted she wasn't afraid of aggressive men. Daley said "Pipe down and go to sleep now", put his hand on her neck and pushed her down onto her bed. Hazel put her hand on his neck as well and Daley said "Don't fuck with me. Do you understand? Before I nut you one." After this final statement, Big Brother called Daley to the Diary Room and later called Hazel as well. Later that morning, Hazel was issued a formal warning, but Daley was removed from the House.
Celebrity Big Brother
Academic and writer Germaine Greer decided to leave this series; one of her primary stated reasons was that she felt that the Big Brother environment was fostering an atmosphere in which bullying behaviour towards racing commentator John McCririck was deemed acceptable and exacerbated.
Another of Germaine's stated reasons for leaving this series was that the introduction of Jackie Stallone to the house was unnecessarily cruel towards fellow housemate Brigitte Nielsen; Nielsen had famously had a difficult relationship with the mother of her ex-husband (Sylvester Stallone), and Greer felt that it was unacceptable to make them live together in the name of entertainment. Nielson however stated in her eviction interview that she felt the experience had been a positive one.
MP George Galloway was criticised for entering the house, being accused of "arrogance and self-interest". The family of Stuart Lubbock criticised the inclusion of entertainer Michael Barrymore, after Lubbock's body was found in Barrymore's swimming pool. However, Barrymore received a warm reception from the crowd.
Singer Pete Burns claimed that his coat was made from gorilla skin; after viewers called in to Ofcom, police removed the coat for testing. Ownership of products made from gorilla is illegal in the UK without a licence. Tests found the coat was in fact made of Colobus monkeys, another endangered species. As a result the case was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service who determined that the pelts used to make the coat were imported before 1975 (the year it became illegal to import Colobus fur) and as such did not press charges. This greatly upset animal rights campaigners, including fellow Housemate and then PETA spokeswoman Jodie Marsh.
In the most controversial series of the show, the fifth celebrity series sparked a worldwide debate, created by Big Brother 3 contestant Jade Goody, singer Jo O'Meara and model Danielle Lloyd. The row was sparked when alleged racist comments were made about Bollywood actress and fellow housemate Shilpa Shetty. A record number of over 45,000 complaints were recorded for the unfair behaviour, bullying and racism in the Big Brother House, with protests across India. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer (now former Prime Minister) Gordon Brown, who was visiting India at the time, found himself answering questions on Big Brother throughout his trip, and a wider debate on racism in the UK was raised by the media. The three housemates involved were evicted by the usual public vote. Their normally lighthearted eviction interview was serious in tone, and began by showing clips of international news bulletins and newspaper front pages. Shilpa emerged as the winner of the series. Following the incident, Channel 4 were heavily criticised by Ofcom for not acting quickly enough, and were forced to apologise on air three times during the following series.
During the 29 January 2010 broadcast of Big Brother's Big Mouth, Vinnie Jones accused Davina McCall of 'walking like a retard', McCall responded by laughing and Jones then mimed what he meant. Despite immediate protests by disability charities, individual disabled people and a Facebook campaign, Channel 4 initially responded "It is important that within the context and structure of the programme that participants have the right to express themselves without censure". It was not until 12 February that Channel 4 removed the incident from its on-demand service 4oD and issued an apology, blaming the failure on the 'tiredness' of production staff. Jones and McCall issued apologies via their respective publicists at around the same time. The tardiness of the response drew unfavourable comment from disability groups, particularly following Channel 4's action in the Celebrity Big Brother racism incident, where contestants were warned over their conduct.
Rylan Clark left the house numerous times to rehearse for The X Factor tour which was due to begin the day after the conclusion of the series. This conflicts with the premise of the show that housemates are filmed twenty four hours a day in isolation and are given no contact with the outside world. Channel 5 released the following statement: "Rylan has rehearsed for his tour on site with a choreographer, escorted by a Big Brother producer". This left fans questioning the original Big Brother format and "no contact with the outside world" rule.
On Day 2, Carol McGiffin received a formal warning from Big Brother after using the word "nigger" in a conversation with Louie Spence. The warning attracted some criticism from viewers as Carol was quoting what Ron Atkinson had said during his time as a football pundit. Viewers were also critical of the fact that "nigger" was censored when Carol used it in said conversation with Louie, but when Big Brother referenced it when speaking to her, it was left uncensored.
On Day 3, Ron was given a formal warning by Big Brother after he commented to Danielle Marr, "You're not carrying a bomb with you, are you?" while she had her jumper over her head in similar fashion to a headscarf, which is commonly worn by Muslim women. Ron was then called to the Diary Room where Big Brother told him that his comments could be deemed "potentially offensive".
On Day 5, Mario Falcone was called to the Diary Room and given an official warning by Big Brother after "slapping" Sophie Anderton while playfighting in the garden. Mario defended himself after Big Brother told him his actions could be deemed as "unacceptable behaviour" by saying, "We were just fucking around and having fun".
On Day 8, Lauren Harries was given a formal warning by Big Brother after she attempted to share some of her medication with Courtney Stodden. Lauren put some of her tablets in Courtney's mouth and told her to have a drink after Courtney complained about feeling unwell.
On day 6 and 7, Jade Dyer and Tommy Wright became the first Big Brother UK contestants to have sex on the show in its history. According to The Independent, this was the first real-life sexual act shown on British television (although nothing explicit was seen; the two were under bedcovers). This sparked controversy in the British media and comment on teenage safe sex education.
During the show's run, Coolio and Nadia Almada had a number of disputes apparently due to Coolio hiding Almada's belongings and imitating her. It was announced on Day 4 that Coolio had left the Big Brother House by "mutual consent" with Big Brother. Following Almada's eviction from the show, the remaining housemates were heard to discuss transphobic remarks made by Coolio against Almada. Fellow contestant Brian Dowling was heard to say "[Coolio] said to her, 'We have to talk', about Nadia's history. He wanted to know if Nadia still had a penis. He asked the girls to put their hands up her skirt [to find out]. He referred to her as 'they'." Following Almada's eviction from the show she declined to appear on Big Brother spin off shows Big Brother's Big Mouth and Big Brother's Little Brother claiming that viewers were misled as to what happened. Almada stated that "Coolio targeted me on the first night and he wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept asking about my gender status and he humiliated me over it. If it had been a racial slur they would have shown it but because it was against a transsexual they edited it out."
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- Big bother over TV teen sex - Showbiz - Evening Standard
- Big Brother 2012 | Latest Big Brother UK news, spoilers and pictures | TellyMix
- Brian, Ulrika explain Coolio situation - Ultimate Big Brother News - Reality TV - Digital Spy
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