'Big Brother' final is a turn-off for 3m viewers

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Three million fewer people watched this year's final of Big Brother compared to last year - confirmation that the fourth series of Channel 4's reality television programme was, as the critics asserted, a "flop".

An average 6.6 million people watched Cameron Stout, a 32-year-old from Orkney, win the £70,000 first prize, and the peak viewing audience for Friday night's final was 7.4 million - compared to 10 million last year. This year, just under 12 million votes were cast throughout the series, compared to 23 million last year.

Tabloids branded the show a flop and even its host, Davina McCall, according to one report, admitted she found its last stages boring.

But Channel 4 defended series four yesterday, saying it was still the "second highest-rating show of the year" for the channel. The highest rating was achieved by the opening programme when viewers first got to see the housemates.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "We are very pleased because you have got to put it into context of Channel 4 - the normal audience we get on a Friday night is two million."

She said the series average of 4.8 million viewers had still beaten the averages of series one and two. Big Brother is guaranteed to run on Channel 4 for at least another two years.

Conrad Green, the editor of the first series of Big Brother, who now works in Los Angeles, said: "I think it's an institution. Even if one year it's not quite so good, that won't necessarily matter."