Hoping to be famous for 15 megabytes

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The Independent Online
One could invoke Andy Warhol, with his dictum that "in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes". In passing one could quote Socrates, who said that "The unexamined life is not worth living."

But in trying to understand why the satellite company, Bravo TV, plans to install a camera in a British woman's bedroom, and broadcast a live picture every two minutes to the World Wide Web, you probably wouldn't mention Lord Reith, godfather of the BBC, who proclaimed that the purpose of public broadcasting was "to inform, to educate and to entertain".

Actually, when asked the purpose of Bravo's move is, Andy Grumbridge, the station's online editor, said rather bluntly: "More viewers."

Ye-es, more viewers. Obviously, any TV channel wants more viewers. But in putting all this technology to use to produce a "programme" which will also be featured on your Website, what are you trying to get out of this project? "More viewers," he repeated. Not necessarily better-informed, just more of them. Presently, Bravo has an undisclosed (but not huge) viewership principally consisting of men aged between 16 and 44.

Meanwhile, the idea of putting a digital camera linked to the World Wide Web in your bedroom is not new. In the United States, Jennifer Ringley set up "Jennicam" some years ago, and fed those pictures to the Web. It became hugely popular, not least because many men are obsessed by the idea of seeing women take their clothes off. There are now hundreds of such "Webcam" sites operated purely for pornographic profit, in which the user has to give a credit card number in order to see anything. "Most of the ones in the US are just professional tease artists," said Mr Grumbridge, 36, confidently.

The three women vying to be featured on the Bravo site will not be professionals, nor tease artists: "I'm doing it for the exposure," said Rosie, a "totally uninhibited" singer from the East End of London. Kate, 23, from Hertfordshire, hopes it will lead to a job as a TV presenter. Mr Grumbridge insists the idea of the Bravo site is not to titillate. "Bravo is known for showing classic TV series, and this is classic Internet," he said, though quite how classic a medium which only entered the general perception in 1994 can be is perhaps open to question.

"The fascinating thing about Webcam sites is being able to to see something live, remotely," he said. "It's fascinating. I've looked at shots of San Francisco Bay. I really don't know why I do it, but you can see the seasons change, share in somebody else's existence."

Given those possible panoramas, why show a female Briton's bedroom? "The Nineties have been the decade of the fly-on-the-wall documentary, and this is the ultimate one. And anyway, it's not just limited to the bedroom. You can take it from room to room." Perhaps they could film the flies. Now that would be the ultimate. In the meantime, Bravo is hoping for hits on its Website, where presently about 50,000 people pass by daily - 90 per cent of them from Britain. And it will be interesting to see if any rise comes from the US, where they might not be able to see the TV station, but they do know something free when they see it.