Channel 4 has dropped voting by text message on the latest series of Big Brother in Britain because it says phone operators are unable to process the messages “within a time frame suitable for the voting procedures on the programme”. The channel has also halved the cost of phone voting in the face of complaints over the way that broadcasters have handled premium rate telephony services.
The cost of calls to vote on evictions from the Big Brother house has been cut from 50 pence to 25 pence on standard landlines. A 10 pence donation to charity will be made for each call.
“The voting has been fair and transparent throughout Big Brother’s eight years on air, but given the recent focus on the use of premium-rate phone lines on TV we want to ensure the audience has absolute confidence in the evictions, which are absolutely integral to the show’s success,” said Andy Taylor, the managing director of new media at Channel 4. “Cutting the cost of phone votes will hopefully encourage the highest possible number of our viewers to interact with the programme.”
Big Brother will be a major test of public confidence in participation television and Channel 4 appears determined to regain the trust of viewers. It comes after allegations of irregularities on phone-in programmes, including a daytime quiz on Channel 4.
Meanwhile another television show produced by Endemol in which it was claimed a dying woman would choose a patient to receive her kidneys was revealed as a hoax.
The apparent donor in the Dutch television programme was an actress. The three candidate recipients were real patients in need of a kidney transplant and were aware that the programme was a stunt.
The Big Donor Show, which had attracted widespread criticism, said it aimed to raise awareness of the need for organ donations.
“The aim of the show is to create attention for a huge problem we have in Holland,” Endemol co-founder John de Mol told the trade publication Variety. “You just don’t have enough donors.”