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New BBC1 chief stays aloof as 'Big Brother' breeds cousins

The new controller of BBC1 said last night that Big Brother-style shows had no place on her channel.

The new controller of BBC1 said last night that Big Brother-style shows had no place on her channel.

In her first major announcement since taking charge last week, Lorraine Heggessey told The Independent on Sunday: "I predict that we will now see a lot of copycat Big Brothers. I am not interested in running one of those."

The success of Big Brother has already sparked a bidding war among television executives buying up "reality television" programmes.

Jailbreak is currently being screened on Channel 5 while ITV is in negotiations to secure the rights to Survive, a big hit in the US.

An ITV spokeswoman said: "Obviously, what Big Brother has shown us is that reality shows fascinate people. "

Experts predict that such programmes will become increasingly sexually explicit as viewers become bored with more staid formats. John de Mol, the Dutch television producer who devised Big Brother, has already come up with Chains of Love, in which participants must choose from four members of the opposite sex to whom they are chained for 24 hours a day for a week in a Big Brother-style house.

The final episode of Big Brother, shown on Friday night, was watched by a peak audience of 10 million - or 57 per cent of the watching audience - while 7.7 million people voted, including 2.5 million phone votes in two hours from 9pm on Friday.

Craig Phillips, from Liverpool, won the £70,000 cash prize after receiving 3.5 million votes - 120,000 more than second placed Anna Nolan. There is anecdotal evidence of callers trying for up to two hours before finally getting through to the vote hotline to register their support for Anna.

But a Channel 4 spokeswoman said it had no reports of phone problems and people who wanted to vote had got through.

The three Big Brother finalists were both exhausted and overwhelmed as they were paraded in front of journalists at a specially arranged press conference yesterday outside the Big Brother house in east London. Most of the questions centred around Anna's perceived new role as a lesbian icon, which left the Irish ex-nun looking a little bewildered.

Bookmakers may also look a little bewildered. William Hill estimated Craig's victory had cost the industry £250,000, representing the biggest outlay on a television-related bet since Who Shot JR? vexed the nation.

The Big Brother house will now be dismantled and packed away to return for a future series. Channel 4 has first option on a second series, and six months to decide.

It will be hard for Channel 4 bosses to resist, however. Liz Warner, the Channel 4 commissioning editor who oversaw the programme, said yesterday: "We set out to produce compelling entertainment and have ended up creating a cultural phenomenon that has changed the relationship between television and the web."

Craig's decision to donate his winnings to a family friend, Joanne Harris, who has Down's syndrome, has had the effect of opening a debate on whether the National Health Service discriminates against people with disabilities.