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Tue 2 Mar 2004 04:00 AM

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Conservatives topple Big Brother

MBC takes the Arabic version of reality TV show Big Brother off the air after protests from conservatives in Bahrain, where it was being filmed.

MBC has suspended transmission of Big Brother (‘Al Rais’ in Arabic) following angry protests against the programme in Bahrain, where it was being filmed. Conservatives objected to men and women being able to mix freely in communal areas, despite the fact that the Arabic version had separate sleeping quarters and prayer rooms, and a women only lounge.

In a statement, MBC said, “We don’t want to be the cause of differences of opinion, so MBC decided to suspend production of the programme Big Brother from the kingdom of Bahrain.”

Big Brother has been an unstoppable hit elsewhere around the world and was expected to achieve similar success here in the Middle East. The format involves leaving 12 complete strangers in a house together with virtually no contact with the outside world.

Each week, viewers get to vote off one of the 12 people. The person left at the end picks up a huge cash prize.

MBC was well aware of the negative publicity the show might attract and had added separate men’s and women’s areas in an attempt to defuse criticism from conservatives. The programme was also transmitted at a time, 11.00pm in Saudi Arabia and midnight in the UAE, that made it unlikely children would be watching.

Even then, observers had questioned whether filming the show in a Gulf country, rather than Lebanon, was the right choice. It is now unclear whether or not the programme will return from a different location.

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