Wednesday, January 17, 2007

UK TV show spurs protests in India

Big Brother, a voyeuristic television show in the UK, has made headlines and prompted questions in parliament after ‘racist’ behaviour. The show, which has placed a mix of celebrities together in the so called Big Brother house, has incensed viewers. Ofcom, the broadcast regulatory body, has received nearly 20,000 viewer complaints and Channel 4 has received at least 4,000 complaints. There have even been threats against three of the Big Brother housemates who have allegedly made racist slurs against Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. Gordon Brown, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been drawn into the row and was today bombarded with questions by reporters during his visit to India. There have also been a number of protests in the country with effigies of the shows producers being burned. Ms Shetty’s mother has also spoken exclusively to Sky News and aired her concerns. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was today forced to give his response to the allegations. He said he could not comment specifically on the programme, which he hadn’t seen, but added that he “opposed racism in all its forms”. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone has described the behaviour of Jo O’Meara, Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd as being “completely unacceptable”. Others that have spoken out against Shilpa Shetty’s ‘bullying’ is a former Big Brother contestant Jodie Marsh [Sky News]. The issue is unlikely to go away with sponsors, producers and broadcasters, coming under pressure to act. So far there has been a muted response. Carphone Warehouse has so far declined to pull out of its sponsorship of the show. The programme’s producer Endemol has yet to make a public statement, but Channel Four has said there has been “no overt racist behaviour towards Shilpa Shetty”. But many viewers remain unconvinced. In one outburst, Lloyd asked Shetty: "Do you get stubble?" In another, Jackiey Budden, Jade’s mother, who constantly called her "the Indian", asked: "Do you live in a house or a shack?" The actress has also been called a "dog" and contestants have complained about her touching their food. Jo O’Meara declared that Indians were thin because they were always ill as a result of undercooking food. Shetty’s accent has also been mocked. Channel 4 has denied reports that Jack Tweed, Jade’s boyfriend, has called the actress a "f***ing Paki". The increased publicity this issue has generated has however only served to increase viewing figures.

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