New 'Big Brother' prompts record number of complaints

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The Independent Online

Record numbers of viewers have complained about the latest series of Big Brother. The first week of the series generated 184 complaints, according to the media regulator, Ofcom.

Most concerned 37-year-old Shahbaz Chaudhry, whose dysfunctional mental state led to his leaving the Big Brother house last week after threatening to kill himself on air.

Last year's series attracted a total of more than 1,100 complaints. The current series is already predicted to be well on the way to exceeding this.

Mental health experts warn that contestants in the seventh series of Big Brother risk serious psychological damage by taking part. Dr Mike McClure of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: "Producers may be choosing people who are mentally unbalanced because this is going to make interesting television. "

Channel 4 argues that the contestants' welfare is its top priority, but Eugene Sully, runner-up in last year's series, said: "Big Brother has become a bullying environment, where a few extreme characters rule the roost."

An Ofcom spokesman said: "We are considering whether these [complaints] warrant investigation."