Big Brother pp 117-143 | Cite as


  • Jonathan Bignell


A wide variety of Reality TV variants, from the television talk show to ‘true crime’ programmes, hidden camera series and staged Reality TV formats like Big Brother exemplify an uneasy shift in the contemporary ideologies of television from a liberal emphasis on personal empowerment and public service concern with social issues to an aggressive surveillance of the individual subject and the engagement of the audience in a process of stigmatization, social differentiation and risk. From this perspective, Reality TV formats are revealing of the relationships between individuals, and between individuals and the agencies that can see, control and contain them within a physical space. It is appropriate that the participants in the first British series of Big Brother were all aged between 22 and 38, and that its audience mainly comprised viewers in the 16–34 age group, of whom 75 per cent watched the programme during its first run. This is also the age group most likely to be perpetrators or victims of violent crime, though men are much more likely to commit such offences or to be assaulted than women. The response to crime against the person across Britain’s urban centres has been to deter it by installing video camera systems, operated by remote control.


Public Space Surveillance Camera Talk Show Television Audience Public Service Broadcasting 
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© Jonathan Bignell 2005

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  • Jonathan Bignell

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