08 September 2008

Big Brother is over for another year. Hurrah! It is now safe to tune in to channel 4 and E4 once again.

This series there were not just one, but 2 disabled housemates. Prior to this series they've had only one disabled contestant, Pete Bennett. He won.

Both Darnell and Mikey survived the entire series (I make it sound like that episode of Doctor Who, don't I?) and made it in to the final.

I also understand that the first American BB was won by an amputee.

TV companies have always been hesitant about putting disabled people on TV. Surely if nothing else, BB proves that viewers *like* having disabled people on their screens and *want* to have disabled people on their screens.

After all, if viewers didn't want to see the disabled contestants, they'd have been voted off ages ago.

The motivations for wanting to see disabled people on screen is almost certainly because they can get away with staring at someone different, which they get embarrassed about doing in real life. Or they end up having an accident. I just love it when people get so engrossed at staring at me, the lady in the wheelchair, crossing the road that they forget to look right and left themselves before stepping into traffic. But Big Brother means they can gawp at us from the safety of their sofa, without the risk of getting hit by a car.

But, motivation is irrelevant. The public have voted that they want to see disabled people on TV. Isn't it time the TV companies paid attention?

Of course, TV companies aren't paying attention. I understand from a friend that not one American TV station is covering the Paralympics. NBC even branded themselves "The Olympic Broadcaster" (or something like that), but they're not showing the Paralympics. Even though at the end of day 2, the US is at the top of the medal table. You would think disabled and non-disabled Americans alike would want to take pride in their success, especially seeing as so far their Paralympians are doing better than their Olympians did.

Here in the UK we're doing rather better. We've got six hours coverage a day via the digital "red button" option on our tellys. Then every evening there's a highlights show on one of the main channels. Those of you in countries where you're unable to watch the games on your TV might be interested to know that the torrent site UKNova is uploading the BBC's nightly highlights programme. Don't bother to ask me for an invite code though. The site doesn't do them. You just have to keep hitting the "signup" page until an account "vacancy" becomes available.

The Beeb's Paralympic website is also mostly excellent (some of the journalism is rather sloppy; for instance apparently Darren Kenny "suffers from" cerebral palsy. Even though he's just won Paralympic gold). But the video files are only available to those connecting to the net in the UK.

When Big Brother started in 2000 I never, ever imagined I'd say that there were lessons to be learned from it. Even more unbelievable is that the lesson that can be learned is that viewers want to see disabled people on TV.

NBC, the so-called "Olympic Broadcaster" could certainly learn a lot from it.