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Big Brother And Its Mental Health Influence


The study analyzed Big Brother reality television programmes and ascertained Nigerian students’ perception of the programmes. Data were also generated with a 22-item self-developed questionnaire with a reliability of 0.81 established using Cronbach’s coefficient alpha. The instrument was administered on 388 respondents drawn from six different departments across the six faculties in University of  using a simple random sampling technique. The results show that Big Brother reality television programmes are produced with educational contents meant to teach the audience skills being performed or perfected by the contestants and the programmes helps audience members to learn things about other people. The study concludes that Big Brother reality television programmes have serious influences on audience members as they desire to be like the people they watch in the programmes. Again, to a great extent, many Big Brother reality television audience members do believe that what they watch in the programmes are real life situations and not mere acting. Therefore, it is recommended, among other things that since Big Brother reality television programmes enable audience members to learn things about others when they watch contestants in the programmes, producers must ensure that Big Brother reality television programmes aired on Nigerian television stations are those capable of impacting positively on the lifestyles of Nigerians, especially University students.





1.1 Background to the Study

1.2 Statement of the Problem

1.3 Purpose of the Study

1.4 Research Questions

1.5 Significance of Study

1.7 Scope of the Study

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms


2.1 Conceptual Review

2.2 Theoretical Review

2.3 Empirical Review


3.1 Research Design

3.2 Population, Sample and Sampling Techniques

3.3 Instrumentation

3.4 Procedure for Data Collection

3.5 Data Analysis Technique


4.1 Demographic Description of Data

4.2 Data Analysis

4.2.1 Hypothesis testing

4.3 Summary of the Findings


5.1 Discussion

5.2 Conclusion

5.3 Recommendations


Appendix: Questionnaire





1.1Background of Study

Since the beginning of the 21st century, reality TV has begun to monopolize both cable and broadcast primetime television programming schedules. In this context reality TV is defined as a show without ―actors‖ in which the general public has access to becoming a contestant on the program. While technically any type of live, unscripted, or non-fiction program is reality TV, this examination excludes news, interviews and talk show type of programs which were the contemporary television programs hitherto and it focus on competitive and entertainment reality TV programs. What those in the television business can understand is that reality TV is the most profitable form of television programming because it has lower production costs and often brings in more viewers and more advertising revenue than scripted programs (Hirschorn, 2007). However, what is not always fully understood is why more viewers are watching reality TV.

Reality television, is a broad category that includes a wide range of programs aiming to be both factual and entertaining, it‘s a genre that has become the latest favorite program of viewers which has made its way into the African society. Reality television is significantly proving to be a favorite among the youth – particularly those who fall within the 18-25 age range (Baumgardner, 2003; Brasch, 2003; Hiltbrand, 2004). Reality television on the whole can be summed up by four characteristics which are the attempted use of passive camera surveillance, illusion of reality, focus on ordinary people, and a certain extent of voyeurism. Although all reality programs share these traits, it is difficult to define reality television as a self-sufficient genre because it draws from a number of genres. Reality television continues to grow and change, like many programs on television. The fact that the genre has qualities from many different genres not only makes it difficult to define, but it also makes it versatile because of its ability to draw from many genres.

Reality television definitions by various scholars such as; Hill (2002:326) describes reality television as factual entertainment and further identifies three sub-genres of factual entertainment namely observation programs, information programs and programs created for television. Observation programs refer to documentaries about ordinary people in everyday places. Information programs include documentaries based on true stories that aim to tell viewers something, e.g. about medical emergencies and pets. According to Roscoe (2001) and Malakoff(2005) both reflect that reality television programs where real people who are often placed in extraordinary situations where their every moment is recorded as they react to their surroundings. Thus, as Roscoe (2001) further notes, the conventional boundaries between fact and fiction, drama and documentary and between the audience and the text are blurred. There are now African versions of Fear Factor, The Biggest Loser and Idols. Various other African countries have versions of these shows under different names.

Big Brother is a ‗reality‘ television show in which a group of people are brought together in a large house, isolated from the outside world, and made to live together while being continuously watched by television cameras – a concept borrowed from George Orwell‘s fictional dystopia of Oceania, a world of never- ending surveillance in the novel 1984. The dictator who watches over the citizens of Oceania is Big Brother, whose terrifying slogan is ‗Big Brother is watching you‘. In the Big Brother television show the house-confined contestants compete to avoid eviction so as to win the prize money.

Big Brother Africa with an estimated viewership of more than forty million(40,000,000) across Africa is the African version of the reality game show Big Brother, however, with the growth of satellite television in Africa, Big Brother debuted on the continent in 2003 and has roused African audience interest since its debut. Seasons one to three included twelve contestants from twelve countries. The fourth season (BBA Revolution) featured 25 housemates from 14 different African countries introduced Mozambique and Ethiopia; this was the first season with 14 countries while season five of BBA (All Stars) featured fourteen former BBA contestants. Season six (BBA Amplified) bringing together 26 housemates from 14 countries. Season seven (BBA Star Game) the cash prize was raised to US $300,000, 35 contestants constituted 14 pairs called BBFs (Big Brother Friends) and seven VIP celebrity housemates from 14 countries. Season eight (BBA the Chase) with 28 housemates and as $300 000 cash prize. The current one which is the Ninth season titled Big Brother Africa Hotshots which is the focal point of this study. This year open auditions were held in the same 14 countries as the previous season (The Chase) with the only exception being Angola which was replaced by new-comers Rwanda. Although Angola is the only country left out from the original 12 participating countries, this year Dstv premiered a local Angolan Portuguese version, Big Brother Angola. Additional auditions were held in Mozambique so viewers can expect a little extra surprise this season. Production of this season was put on hold as the Big Brother house in Highlands North, Johannesburg burnt down. Fortunately no one was injured in the blaze, which currently has an unknown cause. Season 9 premiered on the 5th October 2014, with 26 contestants. The show began with more swag introducing the most dynamic and talented housemates the show has ever seen. The cameras were increased to fifty four and there were one hundred and twenty microphones. BBA, like all other Big Brother formats has had controversies on issues such as sex, nudity, violence, cheating and voting unfairness.

However, the BBA show has also been praised for producing new bonds between otherwise disconnected people (vanZoonen & Aslama, 2006). Bignell (2005) also argues that the appeal of BBA lies in its representation of an African originated program whose agenda is not the usual wars and natural disasters represented in European news agendas. The subject of Big Brother has also gained a lot of scholarly attention vanZoonen & Aslama (2006) have looked at the history of Big Brother which would be discussed in detail in Chapter two of this study. Roscoe (2001) posits that Big Brother is constructed around performance because cameras force the participants to perform for the audiences as well as the other housemates so as to avoid nomination. Roscoe also shows how Big Brother assumes its audience to be highly media literate and adolescents and youths (young adults) seem to fit this category of audiences.

However, the research examined how a controversial reality television show like Big Brother Africa has influenced the behaviors of youths positively and negatively and how it contributed to their academic and socio-cultural values. The study made use of the students of Afe Babalola University who watch the reality show to a large extent every season to gather results for the research.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

As a dominant force in television entertainment, reality TV programs are assumed to be cheaper to produce and draw larger viewing audiences than standard programs. However, it seems some of these shows have little to do with reality. The fact remains that reality TV programing has both negative and positive effects for viewers and participants alike. However, Big Brother reality show is not an exemption in regards to the problems or negative effects of reality shows, which on the surface these programs give the impression that shows are unscripted and natural. But the truth is far less glamorous: most reality shows are tightly scripted and controlled. Stories and situations are developed in advance. The show has a proclivity for spotlighting meanness, greed, deception, airing of shower moments of housemates and other negative personality traits on competitive platforms. Based on this, the study examines whether Big Brother Africa reality TV show has an influence on the social behavior of youths using Afe Babalola University Students as respondents of the study.

1.3 Objective of the Study

This study was designed to examine the influence of Big Brother Africa reality television show on youths particularly students of University of Lagos. The objectives are:

  • Find out the perception of University students of Big Brother reality television programmes.
  • Determine the effects Big Brother reality television programmes have on University Students and the society.
  • Ascertain if the gender of University students affects their perception of reality programmes on television.

Find out how Big Brother reality television stars influence University Students.

1.4 Research Questions

  • What is the perception of University students towards Big Brother reality television programmes?
  • What effects does Big Brother reality television programmes have on University Students and the society?
  • How does the gender of University students affect their perception of reality programmes on television?

How do Big Brother reality television stars influence University Students?

1.5 Significance of the Study

As mentioned in the above discussion, reality television has emerged as a strong competitor for traditional programming in the television arena. This is evident from the many reality shows being broadcast on Digital satellite television (Dstv) such as Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, On Site and Pop Idols. The fact that these shows are scheduled for prime time broadcast also supports the prominence and popularity of reality television shows. Not only is the genre very popular among its target audience, but low production costs also contribute to making reality television the genre of choice for production companies and broadcasters.

The findings of this study will lay a foundation for further research on the effects of reality television programs or viewership on the Nigerian society, youths especially. Although not much study has been done on the influence of Big Brother Africa on Nigerian youths, this paper presents an up-to-date empirical analysis of the aforementioned and made use of Afe Babalola University students as samples for generalization.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The scope of the study was limited to Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State with students in all the colleges of the University, which are; Social and Management Sciences, Law, Medical and Health Sciences and Engineering and Arts & Humanity.

Due to time factor, all students could not be studied in all and that is why the scope was narrowed down to selected Afe Babalola University students.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms

Youth: a ―youth‖ is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood. According to the Africa Youth Charter, youth means ―every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years‖.

Television: Television (TV) is a widely used telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images accompanied by sound and sometimes text.

Reality Television: Reality TV is a type of television which aims to show how ordinary people behave in everyday life, or in situations, often created by the program makers, which are intended to be like everyday life.

Students: This refers to a group of people who studies at a school, college, university or any institution of learning. In the course of this study the students are Afe Babalola University students.

Television viewership: this refers to the extent at which people watch television or a Television program.

Television Audience/ viewers: refers the audiences of a television program or station.

Influence: the power to affect, control or manipulate something or someone. In respect to this study, influence can be seen as the power Big Brother Africa TV show has on youths.

Big Brother Africa: is the African version of the Big Brother game show also known as BBA.


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