Big Brother Australia vs. Big Brother USA: Who’s the best? (Part 2)

Sonia Kruger hosts Big Brother Australia's 2013 season on Nine Network.

Sonia Kruger hosts Big Brother Australia’s 2013 season on Nine Network.  Credit: Nine Network.

I recently wrote about the differences between Big Brother Australia (BBAU) and Big Brother USA (BBUS), focusing mostly on fundamental game differences and the appearance of both shows.  Now, after watching all of the BBAU series to date, I decided to compare and contrast both countries’ Big Brother offerings a little bit more.


For those who haven’t read Part 1 above, I am an American who watches BBAU on delay via Youtube.  BBAU is not aired in the United States on any US TV channel.  Both shows, although sharing the same name, are largely different games.  On BBUS, contestants (called ‘houseguests’) vote to evict one of their own while Australia, like many other countries who air BB, rely on a public vote.  The US show is more competition-based and includes something BBAU doesn’t have: Head of Household (or HoH).  The winner of the HoH competition earns the right to nominate two houseguests for eviction, among other luxuries.

Chima was a BBUS houseguest in 2009.

Chima was a BBUS houseguest in 2009 who was expelled after disobeying Big Brother. Credit: CBS.

Picking right up where I left off in Part 1, the likelihood of houseguests obeying Big Brother seems to be major difference between the two series.  On BBAU, the houseguests largely followed instruction when told not to talk about something.  On BBUS, however, obeying BB is more of a suggestion, not a requirement.  On the BBUS live feeds, houseguests are forbidden from talking about production, diary room sessions or people who have not signed a production waiver.  Houseguests are not allowed to sing, either, regardless of if it is a real song or made up.  Yet, when houseguests do many of the aforementioned no-nos (it happens quite often), they are told to stop typically without any real consequences.  Perhaps the largest example of houseguests disobeying BB was in series 11 (2009) where houseguest Chima refused to go to the diary room after throwing her microphone pack into the pool following a game twist which rendered her Head of Household nominations null and void the week before.  The video clip shows Chima blatantly refusing to go to the diary room after multiple requests from production, leading to her expulsion from the house.

BBAU housemate Mikkayla (right) cries after hearing Ben (left) was evicted from the game.  Housemates later learned Ben's eviction was staged.

BBAU housemate Mikkayla (right) cries after hearing Ben (left) was evicted from the game. Housemates later learned the eviction was staged.  Credit: Nine Network.

Eviction episodes on both shows are polar opposites.  Time and time again, on BBAU, the houseguests uncontrollably wept when a houseguest was voted off.  Tully and Mikkayla were notorious for sobbing as the houseguest left the backyard eviction door.  On BBUS, evicted houseguests are typically maligned by the majority alliance in the house due to houseguests (not America) having the sole eviction votes.  Instead of the entire US cast crying, most are high-fiving, cheering and insulting opposing-side allies of the evictee when they are evicted.  I think the differences in this case boil down to the differences in the BBAU and BBUS games.  Since BBAU housemates don’t vote each other off, the US element of ‘one-upping’ the opposing alliance by voting out one of their members is absent in the Australian game.

Housemates on BBAU are not allowed to talk about nominations.  Several houseguests this year were penalized for doing so.  BBUS, given the inherent changes in game format, encourages nominations talk.  Watching BBAU for the first time this season, it puzzled me as to how good the show would be with banning nomination talk, however I was pleased to see that the Australian show carried its own weight in the topic’s absence.  However, for one week only, BBAU housemates nominated face-to-face and with it, Big Brother allowed nominations to be discussed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this ‘hybrid’ of the BBUS and BBAU formats.  Nominations caused lots of drama and kept the show interesting, at least for this US viewer.  But I can see how allowing continual nomination conversations could take away from other things going on in the house, so I don’t fault BBAU for not allowing it otherwise.

BBAU housemate Tully nominates in the soundproof Nominations Chamber while her fellow housemates look on behind her.

BBAU housemate Tully nominates in the soundproof Nominations Chamber while her fellow housemates look on behind her.  Credit: Nine Network.

One element of BBAU 2013 I thoroughly enjoyed was the Nominations Chamber, a room which had a soundproof booth where houseguests would make their nominations in front of the entire cast.  It was such a difference from the typical nominations ceremony on BBUS, where the HoH would nominate two houseguests in the house dining room while pulling a key out of a box.  But what I didn’t like was how BBAU retired the nominations chamber in the later weeks of the season, save for one week where houseguests’ loved ones helped them nominate from the chamber.  The lack of structure and location of the nominations process took away from the game, in my opinion.

The lack of structure in the BBAU schedule was also a downside of the show.  Several times throughout the 2013 season, Nine Network moved around the order of the episodes.  For example, the eviction episodes were on Monday or Wednesday, depending on week.  The ‘Late Night Feast’ episode, which centered around the weekly party dinner, was scrapped late in the season.  Showdown, which originated this year as a separate episode complete with play-by-play from several people, were cut in lieu of a narrated portion of a regular episode.  Although the changes didn’t largely affect me as an international viewer who sees it on delay, I can imagine it was confusing for the Australian public.

Julie Chen has hosted all 15 Big Brother US seasons since 2000.

Julie Chen has hosted all 15 Big Brother US seasons since 2000.  Credit: CBS.

Although the daily catch-up BBAU episodes were fun and enjoyable for me, I typically disliked the eviction episodes.  Although I believe host Sonia Kruger is a great BB host (on par with BBUS host Julie Chen), the BBAU eviction show format is tiring.  Perhaps the show, at 90 minutes, is just too long.  Most of the show is filler with contrived segments on topics such as ‘will the showmance survive?’ or ‘who is the biggest threat?’  About 3-4 minutes of taped diary room sessions typically fit the bill with these segments.  Another segment includes drawn-out conversations with nominated housemates’ families.  They are all a waste.  I typically skip them while watching.  BBUS’ eviction episodes are 60 minutes, including one catch-up segment, an ‘interaction with the house while live’ segment, a segment where houseguests vote to evict, then finally the eviction and evictee interviews with Chen followed by the HoH competition.  BBUS evictions are more ‘to the point’ and dramatic than BBAU evictions.  One area where BBAU trumps BBUS in this area, however, is that BBAU tends to more thoroughly interview evictees, while Julie Chen interviews the US evictee for about 2-3 minutes before the commercial break.


BBAU 2013 intruders.  From top left to bottom right: Justynn, Nathan, Madaline, Boog.

BBAU 2013 intruders. From top left to bottom right: Justynn, Nathan, Madaline, Boog.  Credit: Nine Network.

As a US viewer, intruders were a fairly new concept.  BBUS has never had an intruder enter the game at a later time as seen on BBAU.  The closest BBUS had was in series 5 (2004) where twins were playing the game as one person, switching places in secret every so often.  Later in the game, the secret was revealed to the house and the other twin was allowed to enter the house to play the game individually.  However, even with the novelty of intruders on BBAU, I feel they entered the game way too late (week 9 of a 15-week season).  The intruders this year, except for Boog, were largely very boring — a stark contrast to the very interesting pre-intruder BBAU 2013 cast.  Intruder Nathan even walked off the show less than two weeks after entering the house.  Why waste our time with boring housemates?  I see enough boring houseguests (the majority of the cast) every year on BBUS!

Brendon (left) and Rachel (right) were a powerhouse showmance alliance on BBUS series 12 and 13.  The couple later married after starring on the sow.  CREDIT: CBS.

Brendon (left) and Rachel (right) were a powerhouse showmance alliance on BBUS series 12 and 13. The couple later married after starring on the show. Credit: CBS.

The inclusion of showmances, or romances between housemates, on BBAU was largely different than BBUS.  On BBUS, showmances typically form and the participants are a large force to be reckoned with.  They also seem to egregiously flaunt the relationship to the point of making their fellow houseguests (and viewers) sick at the constant smooching and (quite often) X-rated nightly activities, as seen on the BBUS live feed.  The BBAU showmances, largely Ed and Jade with a few random interactions among other housemates, seemed tame and more modest in comparison.  Perhaps it is because Ed likely doesn’t want to be with Jade after the show, but showmances are not as large of a part of the show as it is in the American series, at least not in the 2013 series.

Overall, I still stand by my original article in saying that BBAU is much better in all aspects than BBUS.  However, several things about BBAU annoyed me a little bit.  Regardless, I’m looking more forward to BBAU’s 2014 season than next year’s BBUS show.  We’ll see what next year brings…


Further reading

Big Brother has us fooled

Big Brother daily episode guide

Big Brother housemate features, conspiracies & censorship

We’re watching Big Brother

Big Brother’s Executive Producer answers your questions

Big Brother is biased towards Tahan? Proof.

Let’s have a Nightcap: Minyon Falls

This entry is the first from a June vacation in Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales (NSW). For all intents and purposes, Tweed Heads is essentially part of Australia’s Gold Coast located at the twin border towns of Coolangatta Tweed. However that changes during winter Origin season when state league rivalries artificially surface and New Year’s Eve when summer time differences become problematic. The Tweed River (below) is the pinnacle of this region for tourism and boating activities.

Tweed River facing East © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

The photo (below) captures the Tweed River from an easterly perspective into Queensland. Hidden behind the high-rise on the left is the Point Danger Marine Rescue station, Captain Cook Lighthouse and Centaur Memorial of World War II. The Jack Evans Boat Harbour Park is visible to the left, the furthest feature on the mainland. These features are located just south of Coolangatta. The river mouth of the Tweed is pictured centre frame. Fingal Head lies to the right.

Tweed River facing East © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

Another photo (below) shows the Tweed River from a southerly perspective into New South Wales. To the left is Fingal Head. The river parts to the right to become Terranora Creek. To the distant right is Tweed Heads South and Banora Point. To the distant left is Kingscliff. The south is the focus of the trip which forms the basis for this piece.

Tweed River facing South © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

It was discovered whilst driving inland in the beautiful Tweed Range for bush walking and sight-seeing that radio reception is obstructed. Alex Clarke’s aerial photo (below) captures the 1000 m (3,281 ft) wall of the Tweed caldera.

Upper Tweed Valley from a light aircraft at about 500 ft © 2005 Alex Clarke

Considering this region incorporates the Tweed Shield Volcano and Caldera which is the ‘biggest erosion caldera in the southern hemisphere’ this is unsurprising. Reception is optimal along the coastline, as one might expect. This includes high-rise reception.

Tweed Range © 2010 Ben Hutton

It was surprising to learn that one of the most interesting places for radio reception during the break would be Nightcap National Park, comprising some 11,000 hectares of spectacular forest and creeks. This park is home to the 20 million year-old volcano.

However, it is also home to the legendary Mt Nardi. This television and FM radio broadcast site causes receiver overload at towering apartment towers at Tweed Heads… some 48 km (30 miles) away, even on a portable FM radio! It will be demonstrated that perhaps the Mt Nardi ABC broadcasts are ‘blowtorches’ for good reason. Before the frequencies became blocked by local stations, the 100 kW stations could easily be heard along the coastline 195 km (121 mi) north on any car radio. Some enthusiasts classify these instances as ‘over servicing’ by the public broadcaster or put alternatively, an excessive level of coverage. Consider that only one ABC station offers local coverage, the rest are always networked.

Minyon Sans Falls © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

The desired destination was the Minyon Falls walking track, Minyon Loop. The track was chosen because time was scarce. It was easy to schedule this into a winter afternoon when the sun tends to disappear at a ferocious pace! One way to get there is from the road from Mullumbimby, located 35km or (21 mi) west. The portable Tom Tom GPS unit was left back in the big smoke, so it was left to the potentially riskier Google Maps to guide the way. Google Maps suggested the drive through Mullumbimby was the only way to get there from the coast! The 76 km (47 mi) drive from the Tweed Heads accommodation took approximately an hour and a half.

Nightcap NP is located just 21 km (13 mi) northwest of culturally rich Byron Bay, which attracts capital city folk to its numerous music festivals and enjoys a reputation as a popular surfing destination, unshackling its struggling working class town history for much of the 20th century. With European discovery in 1770 came the naming of Cape Byron, the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Bay residents occasionally still endure tropical cyclones in February, with the last major destructive forces being Barbara in 1967 and Connie in 1954. Such weather patterns usually do wonders to the swell! Inland access to the park (and specifically Mt Nardi) is also available via historic Nimbin, perhaps the best known Australian hippie commune of the 1960s and ’70s.

Nimbin Hemp Embassy © 2010 Nimal Skandhakumar

Upon arrival at about 5pm, the Minyon Falls Lookout rising up 104 metres (341 ft) in the distance bore NO resemblance to anything taken by photographers included here. In comparison, does anybody expect that a McDonalds’ burger dispensed from a drive through at 11 pm will have the same presentation as that depicted a television commercial? Of course not! 🙂

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Nicolas Emmanuel-Emile

If one carefully contrasts the photos (above and below) it is clear that a ‘soggy squashed burger with brown lettuce’ was being dished up for this particular visit! Such is life.

Minyon Sans Falls  © 2013 FM dxing at wordpress

The sides of Minyon Loop were littered with fallen trees from a recent storm. As can be seen above, there was NO water in the waterfall.

Fallen foliage on Minyon Loop © 2013 FM DXing at WordPress

Minyon Falls may not qualify as dangerous or remote terrain, characteristic of Ben Fogle’s Extreme Dreams (2006-2009) nor Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007) but exercise is always the name of the game!

Altitude readings at Minyon Sans Falls day area  © 2013 FM dxing at wordpress

This blogger’s hands never lie! The elevation at the day area site (adjoining the Repentance Creek car park) was 389 metres above sea level or 1,276 feet. The weather was fine yet overcast and the ambient temperature sat at 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees F).

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Michael Dawes

In torch-light, the team endured over 45 minutes of difficult track on the Minyon Loop. This was due to the steep rises out of the valley. Making the 7.5 km (5 mi) distance was impossible within the allotted time frame. Upon return in darkness, it was straight to the well-lit car. It was magnificent to replenish the dehydrated bodies with bottled water.

Before departure, a brief FM band scan was undertaken for approximately 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the scan is NOT exhaustive due to time restrictions; perhaps readers may be inspired to complete it should they tour the park. A printout of the Kyogle tropospheric projection from FM Scan with a 600 km (373 mi) radius was recovered from the back seat. This saves a lot of time and uncertainty in identifying stations in an unfamiliar area such as this. It becomes a simple procedure of ‘ticking off’ the stations predicted. The bulk of the time can be spent paying careful attention to the unlisted (that is, unpredicted) stations. Kyogle was 38 km (24 mi) west and punctuated by the National Park itself. Although the distances on this printout were inaccurate for our location, this printout was all that was on hand. The projections proved reliable.

Because of the eroded volcanic terrain, cellular reception is never guaranteed. And neither the Optus nor Telstra 3G carriers furnished sufficient coverage. Although a print out is old-fashioned, under these circumstances it is fool-proof. And it can be used to build a fire in an emergency! The team used paper National Park maps as well! The most interesting reception included:

  • Nim 102.3 Nimbin CBD [weak: 17km, 11mi]
  • SBS 106.3 relay Nimbin Reservoir
  • Radio 97 104.1 relay Elanora [54km, 34mi]
  • FM 104.7 Grafton [99km, 62mi]
  • Life 103.1 South Grafton [132km, 82mi]
  • River 94.9 Ipswich [147km, 91mi]
  • 89.7, 93.7, 102.5 Tenterfield [148km, 92mi]
  • 2MC 106.7 Port Macquarie [248km, 154mi]
  • Radio 531 93.5 relay Port Macquarie [311km, 193mi]
  • ABC 94.7, 95.5, 96.3, 97.1, 98.7 Taree [350km, 217mi]
  • ABC 96.7, 99.1, 100.7 Narrabri [363km, 226mi]

Receptions of River 94.9 FM and Ten FM 89.7 were of insufficient strength to permit RDS decoding; nor were the Brisbane stations. Radio enthusiasts can inspect the entire FM band scan which is viewable as part of the FM List registry. Because the band scan was taken shortly before 6 pm, some of the signals audible may be jet reflected stations rather than pure troposcatter propagation. Because of our location (which seems to be classified as a valley in the literature, despite the elevation) permanent signals may arrive at the location via a propagation method known as knife-edge refraction from the very tip of the range into the valley. For example, Narrabri stations may fall into this category. NO enhancement was forecast.

Mt Nardi comms centre © 2007 Angus Fraser

The Nightcap Range provides a natural barrier towards the north-west. In this direction, the mountains include the 560 m (1,837 ft) tall Peach Mountain, 7 km (4 mi) away. The 130 m (427 ft) high broadcast towers are situated west of the towering 804 m tall Mt Matheson (2,638 ft). Towards the north, the Goonengerry National Park poses another obstacle, with a 410 m (1,345 ft) peak situated nearby. Conversely, towards the south-east lies a 262 m (860 ft) hill, near Federal.

Other prominent mountains in the region include Nightcap’s Mt Burrell with 933 m (3,061 ft) and Jerusalem Mountain with 810 m (2,657 ft). Jerusalem is the pinnacle of the Jerusalem National Park. These are located 22 km (14 mi) and 14 km (7 mi) away, respectively. The towers are situated 14 km (9 mi) northwest of the Repentance Creek car park.

The aforementioned obstructions meant NO images from Mt Nardi were readily heard on the Blaupunkt Las Vegas DVD35 during the brief scan. Considering the significant physical impediments provided by the Goonengerry, Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks it is perhaps surprising that the local Casino FM station with a modest 86 m (282 ft) mast located 42 km (26 mi) south south west of the car park is audible around Tweed Heads. The Heads are some 88 km (55 mi) north-east of their site!

The answer may be found if one recognizes that the terrain from Casino to Cape Byron (on the ocean) is flat. The predominantly unobstructed path was ideal for the historic Murwillumbah railway. Whilst it had its first track section opened in 1894, the 130 km industrial railway has been disused since 2004.

NSWGR BOX001S10 - 4419, Murwillumbah © 1977 Michael Green Hill

The photos by east coast terrain specialist photographer Michael Dawes (two can be found below) are indicative of the unspoiled and captivating beauty of Nightcap NP at its sunny peak.

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Michael Dawes

Some rain would surely enliven waterfalls such as Minyon this summer, if only to dampen the already worrying bush fire season! [A few days after the publication of this entry, the Rural Fire Service of NSW reported a controlled bush fire was burning 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) northwest of Mt Nardi].

Minyon Falls  © 2010 Michael Dawes

After stopping the car briefly in Mullumbimby at 7pm to make a cellular phone call, a sense of déjà vu dawned on this blogger. There had been a spot of horse race gambling and a sparkling chilled beverage consumed in one pub here on a ‘men only’ road trip en route to Lismore several few years earlier!

Crystal castle, Mullumbimby © 2008 Melanie Cook

Although rising 122 metres (400 ft) above sea level, Mullumbimby CBD is a built up dining and retail precinct meaning the receiver ‘noise floor’ rises noticeably higher than in the boon docks. Put simply, the interference tends to kill weak FM signals! Located just north of the town is a 307 metre (1,004 ft) peak, essentially the location is surrounded by hills and mountains once again! There was barely five minutes to spare, but the following stations were received stationary at some random car park:

  • 2KY 87.6 Sky Sports Racing Radio [local broadcast]
  • Star 105.5 & 2CS 106.3 Coffs Harbour [194km, 121mi]
  • Star 105.1 Port Macquarie [258km, 160mi]
  • ABC 96.7, 99.1, 100.7 Narrabri [376km, 234mi]

Broadcasts originating from the south (i.e. Coffs and Port) were received with a very weak signal strength.

Mullumbimby road sign © 2008 Yellow Arrow

Before returning north-bound to the M1, the car would NOT initially start. Hey… please stop laughing! After five minutes it roared to life; the terrifying anxiety dissipated. Starter motor problems were suspected at this time; indeed the team’s unqualified suspicions proved accurate when the fault was professionally diagnosed at the dealer service the next week. Upon arrival back at the twin towns of Coolangatta Tweed about an hour later, there was an uneasy sense of unfulfilled potential. One day, this blogger may return and capture this magnificent spectacle of Minyon Falls in the flesh. And participate in a serious hike, which demands a bit of forward planning! One day…

Nightcap National Park

NSW Government

Bonzle Digital Atlas

Minyon Falls


Star Newspaper (Malaysia)

Minyon Falls, Mt Warning, Nimbin, Fingal Head & Byron Bay

Californian exchange student blog

Gadsventure  travel blog

World Untold travel blog

Nightcap National Park FM broadcasting

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

100.9 ZZZ FM

Broadcast distances are calculated using FM Scan. Town and mountain distances are calculated using As the Cocky Flies and ExplorOZ. To establish terrain and tower positions for this discussion, Geo Maps were used. These maps are invaluable to ascertain elevation contours and pinpoint tower positions. A Hybrid Satellite and Standard Geo Map-250K can be created at the Geoscience Australia website.

The copyright holders of third-party photography included on this blog have licensed their works under the Creative Commons for non-commercial use (such as this not-for-profit blog) with attribution. To view more of their work, type the photographer’s name into Flickr. To ascertain the copyright holders of each photograph, please use the mouse hover.

Creative Commons license - Click here for details

Photographs of Tweed River and Minyon Falls taken by this blogger (indicated by the mouse hover) may be freely used for non-commercial activity provided attribution is given. Should readers choose to use those photos elsewhere, please link back to this page or attribute this blog as the copyright holder.

Pump up the volume

This blogger has been purchasing music from Legal Sounds from many years. Recently a new album by New Zealand indie band the Naked and Famous was released. Most of their debut album was interesting, so off this blogger headed to download the new album via that site.

Alas, it was disheartening to see what happened once the URL was punched into the browser. Legal Sounds had disappeared due to a change in Russian copyright laws, along with all remaining credit in the account.

Legal Sounds was legal in the host country Russia &/or the Ukraine. However, it has been suggested that the owners of the site used a loophole to circumvent intellectual property infringement of United States’ based record companies. To put it bluntly, the US multinational record companies were ‘pissed off’ as much as independent record companies about a site where a new release album in 320 kbps MP3 quality could be typically downloaded for less than two dollars.

It may be that Legal Sounds was a copytrap. Assistant Professor Ned Snow provides a definition geared predominantly towards a US audience:

Copytraps arise when Web sites lure innocent users into downloading expression that seems legal but is actually infringing. Regardless of whether the Web site appears legitimate, whether a user’s good-faith belief is reasonable, or whether the Web site owner is unaware that the material is infringing, users who download infringing material face strict liability punishment, and the penalties are severe. It is entrapment, with the spoils from the innocent going to large corporate copyright

Downloading music from Legal Sounds was purportedly in compliance with copyright laws in this country, according to the legal information provided on the site. Nonetheless, being a subscriber felt a bit like being in a relationship that was fun one with an underlying uneasiness; it seemed it was always going to end one day. So Legal Sounds, thanks for memories and exploiting the loophole whilst the fun lasted.

Perhaps there is good reason that people turn to online merchants providing a service of questionable legality that accordingly, lack longevity? Australians who who choose to legally purchase MP3 music may be subject to price gouging. CHOICE Head of Campaigns, Matt Levey says “In Australia you pay, on average, 52% more than an American consumer will for the same fifty top iTunes songs”.

Back to the music! Here are five favoured songs, with their videos compliantly hosted on Youtube. Local artists are included first. Yes, these all have female vocals.

Kimbra – Good Intent

Sarah Blasko – We Won’t Run

Little Birdy – Brother

Lily Allen – Not Fair

Feist – The Bad In Each Other