UK: 45,000 apply for show

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As Big Brother mania sweeps Germany and Spain, television executives are sorting 45,000 requests from would-be participants for the British version.

It is due to go on air on Channel 4 and the internet in July, just as the Americans, too, get their chance to see what has become a broadcasting sensation.

More than 80 per cent of Dutch television viewers tuned in last December during the final episode of the original series, according to its makers Endemol, with 27 per cent of people watching regularly.

The rights to the format have been sold to Scandinavia and Portugal as well as Germany, Spain, Britain and the US.

But a legal battle could put paid to further programmes. Charlie Parsons, Bob Geldof and Lord Alli, founders of the Planet 24 production company now owned by Carlton Television, flew to Amsterdam last month to claim that it had been based on a programme idea, called Survive, which they had spent most of the last decade developing.

A judgment is expected next month, but the case is expected to go to appeal. The courts could propose a compromise agreement.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman expressed surprise that so many people were willing to face the public scrutiny the programme entailed. The winner will receive £70,000.