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'Big Brother' rows prove turn-off as fewer viewers tune in for final

Overnight estimates for ratings showed that the final programme had an average audience of 6.7 million people, the largest audience achieved during 2005. Only last week Channel 4 pulled in 6 million viewers for the opening episode of big-budget US thriller Lost.

However, Big Brother's audience was still the lowest for a final since the series began in 2000, and way below the reality contest's highest total of 9.5 million, which was achieved that same year.

The series provoked controversy after a drunken hot tub "orgy" was screened, as did contestant Kinga's bizarre behaviour with a wine bottle. After the orgy incident, housemate Makosi Musambasi claimed she had become pregnant after having sex with Anthony.

The claim led to almost non-stop booing as she emerged from the house during the final, with the crowds who turned up to watch the live final chanting "Liar, liar." The series was also distinguished by a series of blazing rows between the housemates, which led to them splitting into two distinct camps.

Channel 4 commissioning editor Angela Jain said the station was thrilled with the viewing figures."It is a show that consistently reinvents itself," she said.

Anthony won just half of the £100,000 prize money because his housemate Eugene Sully took the other £50,000 during a stunt last week in which producers offered him the cash. If he had refused, the prize money would have doubled.

Anthony, from Consett, Co Durham, polled 57 per cent of the public vote in the final stages of the competition. Channel 4 is contracted to another two series of Big Brother, which is expected to return next May.