CBS cancels all evicted 'Big Brother 8' houseguest media interviews
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 08/31/2007
Citing a concern that reporters' questions might "influence" the votes of the evicted houseguests that will be part of the jury that will determine Big Brother 8's $500,000 grand-prize winner, CBS has announced that it has canceled all post-eviction media interviews with the show's remaining houseguests effective immediately.
Media outlets that were scheduled to interview Siyavus on Friday received a statement late Thursday informing them of the network's lock-down decision.
"We have made jury members of Big Brother available to the press the past two seasons, always with the proviso that their questions not inform the ejected houseguest of influences outside his or her personal experience in the house," CBS said in the statement.
"This season, several cast members have made either offensive statements or exhibited controversial behavior. We respect journalists' interest and right to pose questions about these matters, but at the same time believe doing so could provide information that influences the final vote and potential outcome of the 12-week competition. For that reason, the remaining jurors will not be made available to the media for the duration of the program."
Prior to the late Thursday announcement of the new all-encompassing gag order, CBS had already previously informed reporters that it planned to restrict them from asking about many several media outlets considered to be a non-gameplay subject matter, according to The Associated Press.
Reporters were already confined to asking the sequestered evictees about events that they were personally "physically present for in the house." However, The AP reported that once Siyavus and fellow houseguest Jameka Cameron were nominated for eviction last week (Siyavus was later removed from the eviction block and neither was evicted that week), CBS had informed reporters that should either one be evicted, anyone interviewing Siyavus or Cameron would have to agree not to ask questions about controversial anti-Semetic remarks Siyavus had made to Cameron during their Big Brother 8 stay.
After CBS announced its intention to make asking either woman about Siyavus' comments off limits to reporters, The AP published an August 29 report in which it publicly announced that it would decline to interview either one of them.
Although none of the comments were ever broadcast on Big Brother 8's thrice-weekly CBS broadcasts, Siyavus' comments had been broadcast on the show's live 24/7 Internet feeds.
"The majority of people I know from New York and Jewish... so many are greedy and so selfish," Siyavus told Cameron in an August 6 live feed conversation that eventual became much more widely viewed via YouTube.
"The one girl we used to work with -- she's from New York -- and she's a good person... She is," continued Siyavus. "She's from New York and she's Jewish but she's a good person and she means well. She's just been f**ked over so many times she's bitter. She's really like money-hungry and my mom's like, 'She's Jewish.' Every time my mom points that out... Every time I make a comment about somebody being selfish or greedy... like every single time."
"You just got to be careful how that's coming across because you don't want to be labeled as... you know what I mean?" Cameron said to Siyavus during their conversation, obviously aware that her housemate was making anti-Semetic remarks. "Don't just make a blank statement like that because it's bad... It's not good."
"Oh yeah," answered Siyavus. "People that I know who are Jewish -- that I've met -- very few aren't f**ked up..."
Two days after the August 6 broadcast of Siyavus' comments, CBS issued their own statement on the matter.
"Big Brother is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 - and seeing every moment of their lives," said CBS in the statement, according to TMZ.com. "At times, the houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by Amber Siyavus on the live Internet feed to be offensive and they will not be part of any future broadcast on the CBS Television Network."
While Siyavus' derogatory comments have received the most media attention, she's not the only still-competing Big Brother 8 houseguest that has caught flack about what they've said or done on the live Internet feeds.
Dick "Evil Dick" Donato has taken heat due to his poor treatment of several of the house's other houseguests -- particularly Jen Johnson, who was evicted during last week's Big Brother 8 eviction (Johnson was nominated for eviction after Siyavus was removed from the chopping block). Donato's interaction with Johnson included several vulgarity-laced tirades, dumping a glass of iced tea on her head, blowing cigarette smoke in her face, and inadvertently grazing the palm of her hand with a lit cigarette he was smoking when she tried to knock it away from him on the eve of her eviction.
"I definitely think [Donato] should've been kicked out, but obviously he was definitely entertainment for the show, so that's why he wasn't," Johnson told The AP during her post-eviction interview.
In addition, Eric Stein, a 27-year-old New York talent management assistant who is secretly serving as Big Brother 8's "America's Player" twist, has also repeatedly been observed using vulgar terms to describe Johnson and some of the house's other women.
CBS' new interview blackout policy applies to all media outlets, including its own.
"Amber thank you... you're off to the jury house but we'll see you back here on [September] 18th when you help determine who wins Big Brother," host Julie Chen said to Siyavus during last night's liveBig Brother 8 broadcast, failing to tease The Early Show interviews she normally conducts with newly-evicted houseguests on Friday mornings.
Future Big Brother 8 evictees will also no longer be interviewed on House Calls, CBS.com's live daily Big Brother talk show.
"The decision has been made to truly, truly sequester each jury member to protect the integrity of the game," said House Calls host Gretchen Massey after reading CBS' statement during Friday's broadcast, which was supposed to feature an interview with Siyavus.
Despite the in-season gag order, CBS plans to make all Big Brother 8 houseguests available to the media following the finale, which is scheduled to air Tuesday, September 18.