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Big Brother is back: Christian former winner welcomes new support measures for housemates

by Will Hobbs

A Christian, who won the 2003 series of Big Brother, has praised ITV's commitment to being "completely transparent" about the support offered to its contestants.

The show, which was previously broadcast on Channel 4 and Channel 5, returned to screens last week on ITV, five years after it was axed in 2018.

ITV says contestants will now be provded with "bespoke training on dealing with social media and press" after being on the show, as well as "a mandatory session with a mental health professional immediately after a Housemate leaves the House." Professional support, it says, is also constantly availble during the show. 

In the show, sixteen houseguests compete in various challenges and tasks to try to win rewards and avoid eviction. Each week, the houseguests vote to evict one of their fellow contestants until only one person remains, who is then declared the winner and awarded a cash prize.

In 2003, for the show's fourth season, an average of 4.2 million viewers tuned in to Big Brother 4, with a peak of 9.5m watching as Mr Cameron Stout won the series and a £70,000 jackpot.

He told Premier that he never entered the Big Brother house intent on sharing that he was a Christian, but that he looks back fondly on how early conversations in the house played out.

"On the opening days, when we were starting to get to know one another, somebody asked if anyone in there was religious. And then of course, instantly, I thought, 'Oh no, this is gonna be controversial.' And as if I was sitting in a different room, I could hear my voice saying, 'I'm not religious, but I am a Christian'. And I thought, 'Oh, well, that's me elected straightaway.' But no! I certainly had made no plans to go in as 'Cameron the Christian'. I was just going to be there as Cameron, but because your faith is an integral part of you, I suppose, that's what comes through... and it did."

The show has been described as a "social experiment" - one that explores how people behave and interact when placed in a confined environment, with strangers, and under the constant scrutiny of cameras and the pressure of competition.

In previous series, revelations made inside the house have led to a media firestorm, and backlashes against individuals once they emerge from the Big Brother house when they get evicted.

As a former contestant, Stout believes it is vital for the broadcaster to provide support for contestants, especially in the age of social media, which was non-existent when he was a participant.

He's welcomed the new approach towards publicly valuing the contestants as people first: "I think one of the one of the key things this year is that ITV are having to be completely transparent about their support for the housemates. And in fact, there have been some trailers in the run up by the two hosts, saying, 'You know what, let's be positive. Let's be kind to the housemates. These guys are real flesh and blood human beings who've got feelings.' And that's really the first time that that's happened.

"It's a concerted effort to make the viewing public a bit more aware of how we use words and how we react with the programme. So I think that's a real big step."

Since appearing on the show, Stout has worked as a TV presenter, radio DJ, pantomime actor and teacher. He currently works for BBC Radio Orkney.

He told Premier he still gets recognised on the Tube in London and even in a church in New Zealand - with his Christian faith still a common talking point.

"I can remember being on holiday in Australia and New Zealand and we went to Hillsong Church, and people there said, 'Wait a minute, there's that British guy that's the Christian!' So that was a little bit unusual. But they've got a positive feeling about the whole thing. So, I look back very fondly on the whole experience."

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