Big Brother viewers taking part in phone votes to evict contestants from the reality TV show are to be charged less for the calls, Channel 4 has announced.

The broadcaster, which begins airing the latest series of the programme tomorrow, said it was cutting the cost of calls and introducing new voting procedures in a bid to make the process more "transparent".

Moves to make the eviction process fairer come in the wake of a series of scandals regarding TV phone-in competitions.

Channel 4, which made a profit from the 50p per vote charged in previous Big Brother series, revealed that eviction calls will now cost 25p each.

Most of the money will be used to meet the cost of administering the voting process, but ten pence will also be donated to charity for each vote cast.

Text message votes will no longer be allowed in a further move aimed at making the eviction polls more transparent, while an external law firm will monitor the voting process.

"Given the recent focus on the use of premium-rate phone lines on TV, we want to ensure the audience has absolute confidence in the evictions, which are absolutely integral to the show's success," explained Andy Taylor, managing director of new media at Channel 4.

New voting procedures also follow a mix up in January over an eviction vote concerning the last series of Celebrity Big Brother.

Viewers were left confused after an on-screen message and voiceover gave them the same number to both evict and save housemate Shilpa Shetty in a five-way contest between the celebrity residents.

Meanwhile, as Big Brother VIII prepares to launch, Channel 4 has been ordered to make three on-air apologies after television watchdog Ofcom ruled last week that the Bollywood actress had been the victim of alleged racist bullying in the previous run of the show.

29/05/2007 07:39:59