Channel 4 dumps Celebrity Big Brother after race row
LONDON - Channel 4 has dropped the next series of 'Celebrity Big Brother' following the racism row earlier this year that resulted in Carphone Warehouse pulling sponsorship from the programme and a record number of complaints to Ofcom.
The decision not to run its winter ratings banker leaves the broadcaster with 30 hour-long 9pm slots to fill on its main channel during January.
The broadcaster is planning some new 'Big Brother' programming in January on its digital channel E4, but not in the 'Celebrity Big Brother' format. It was tight-lipped about what ideas it had, but said it was currently in discussions with the programme's producer Endemol.
The move comes as 'Big Brother 8' nears the end after a run of underwhelming audience figures compared with previous series.
The last series of 'Celebrity Big Brother' went down in TV history for the international furore caused by the treatment of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty by housemates, including Jade Goody, and attracted a series average of 5m viewers. Ofcom received more than 44,500 complaints and Carphone Warehouse pulled out of its programme sponsorship during the series.
A Channel 4 spokesman was keen to link the decision to a "broader process of creative renewal" around its 25th anniversary in November and said that 'Celebrity Big Brother' was being rested and could come back in future years.
The creative shake-up is effectively a clear-out of its 9pm-10pm slot for the first half of the year. Shows including 'Brat Camp', 'You Are What You Eat', 'It's Me or the Dog' and 'Selling Houses' have all been dropped, but 'Grand Designs' will return.
Kevin Lygo, director of TV and content at Channel 4 speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival today, said the move will almost certainly hit ratings but it was time for the main channel to take risks.
Lygo said: "We've been fantastically successful at 9pm and a consequence has been the easy choice of the returning series. It is time to be brutal with some much loved shows in order -- once again -- to make way for the new."
He also told the audience the channel is reducing its annual £100m acquisition budget by £10m in 2008, and likely by more in following years.
He said the costs of US shows had "spiralled, while the return is not as great as it used to be".
He used the speech to set out his vision for what the main channel should be about in light of questions over its public service role and its future funding.
He said: "Channel 4 still has such a purpose, such a personality. It is heterodox rather than conventional. It is iconoclastic and individualistic rather than a scion of established values and elites. It tells the tale of ordinary voices, the deserving who are often not heard."
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