The Miss World contest will be decided by public vote for the first time with a new interactive format.

The much-derided contest, now in its 54th year, is being given a revamp intended to bring it up to date with other reality shows such as Pop Idol.

Rather than being picked by a panel of judges, viewers in more than 160 countries will be able to choose their favourite contestant.

Miss World is still the world’s most watched annual television event, with more than two billion viewers, which could produce the biggest ever global television vote. Only the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and the World Cup Final pull in a bigger audience.

The new voting process was announced at the Mipcom international TV festival in Cannes. Viewers will be able to cast their vote via phone, text messaging, interactive TV or online.

“The global phone vote, combined with Miss World’s truly unique worldwide position gives the competition an added impetus and participation element that makes it a truly interactive proposition for broadcasters,” said Julia Morley, Chairman of Miss World.

Several new territories will be screening the event live, including the USA, Canada, India and Greece. Last year the event was sold to 162 countries. The organisers are currently in discussion with several British broadcasters over the rights to screen the contest.

Miss World 2004 will consist of six major television events during the four-week event period, with a 90-minute special, Miss World: You Decide, live from Sanya in Southern China.

TWI and Red Fig will provide interactive services to Miss World. Mark Rowland, chief executive of Red Fig said “Miss World and interactivity are a great fit – it’s an exciting opportunity to take this extraordinary brand to a new dimension and to extend our approach to participation TV to many new territories. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Miss World organisation and TWI on this – we look forward to the challenge.”