EastEnders, the most-watched programme on the BBC, is to get a new gay character in the New Year.

The gay brother of character Jane Beale will arrive in Albert Square in early 2008.

The soap’s executives were inspired to include a gay character after a similar move by ITV’s Coronation St proved to be a big hit with viwers.

The Mirror reported: “The bosses at EastEnders have seen how well Antony Cotton does as Sean in Corrie.

“He’s become incredibly popular with viewers so they’ve decided it’s time to have a gay character of their own.

“However, he’s not going to be as camp as Sean. This guy’s going to be very suave and a real charmer.”

The long-running soap is no stranger to gay and lesbian storylines.

It was the first in the UK to feature a gay male couple, and last year lead character Sonia Fowler had a lesbian affair.