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Ofcom Say: C4 To Apologise Over Race Row

Channel 4 has been forced to transmit what is, in effect, an apology for the highly-controversial events during Celebrity Big Brother 5 in January 2007. This will be transmitted not once, but three times over the coming days.

TV regulator Ofcom found there were failings on behalf of the broadcaster on a number of occasions during the series, when it's Broadcasting Code was breached.

Specifically, the regulator took umbrage with the remarks made by housemates about Cooking in India (transmitted 15/01/07), the 'F**k off home' comment (17/01/07) and the 'Shilpa Poppadom' comment (18/01/07 and 19/01/07).

In light of the race row which prompted almost 45,000 people to register a complaint, Channel 4 launched its own investigation and found that certain conversations – which weren't actually transmitted – were kept from Senior C4 management by Endemol staff. A summary follows:

On Day 14 during a late-night conversation, Jade Goody suggested that Danielle Lloyd may have used 'the P-word' in reference to Shilpa Shetty. Cleo Rocos tried to work out what she meant, and Danielle herself seemed to be none-the-wiser.

Jack Tweed then clarified that the word Jade referred-to rhymes with 'tacky', clearly meaning the racial insult 'P*ki'. Danielle denied using the p-word.

Less than half-an-hour later, Jo O'Meara started a limerick thus: "There once was a house that was happy...," arguably with the intention of including the p-word within it. Jo continued her limerick with, "...and then there entered...", but failed to finish the line.

Cleo saw where this was going, and effectively told her peers that they were being naughty.

Jo ended the limerick with the word 'nappy', but Jack tried to get the word 'tacky' in; a word he'd used earlier to assimilate the p-word. Jade repeated Jo's line, "Until there entered a...", again hinting at the possible inclusion of the p-word. Jo then used the word 'strappy' (meaning 'strap-on' vibrator) and Jade used the word 'yappy'.

Jack took the limerick further by adding the line, "She nearly killed everyone with a chicken," which demonstrates that the group knew full-well the limerick was about Shilpa; it was a reference to the Asian housemate's bodged meal.

Then, in a later post-midnight conversation about her stand-up argument with Shilpa, Jade made the comment (not in the former's presence), "Shilpa pashwa f**king whoever you are... Shilpa poppadom".

Jack and Jo tried to encourage Jade to leave it, but Jo went-on to start a new limerick with the line, "There was a young girl from Bombay..." Cleo tried to change the subject so that her peers wouldn't get into trouble, but Jo and Jade kept things going, generally down-talking Shilpa.

About Ofcom's adjudication findings, C4 Chief Executive Andy Duncan said, "We accept Ofcom's judgement that on the occasions in question, we failed to ensure that 'Big Brother' intervened with the necessary promptness or strength. We would like to say sorry once again for any offence caused to our viewers as a result".

"Ofcom didn't rule that this material should not have been broadcast, rather that we should have done more to contextualise it by challenging and reprimanding the offending housemates. We believe that the initiatives that we've just announced will help prevent a repeat of the public offence caused by the programme."

Mr. Duncan was referring to the fact that Channel 4 has since re-jigged the way the show is made, including putting someone in charge of monitoring housemates' welfare, introducing new procedures to deal with offensive behaviour and having more C4 staff situated at the House.

C4 Chairman Luke Johnson added, "We feel the sanction imposed is proportionate, given Ofcom's ruling that the breaches were not deliberate and that the channel did not act recklessly, and in the light of Channel 4's good compliance record generally and on Big Brother in particular".

Channel 4 will broadcast a summary of Ofcom's ruling just before Big Brother 8 begins, then again when the Launch show is repeated, and finally, just prior to the first eviction of the series.

Hopefully, we can then put this important but very negative matter to bed and enjoy the new series.

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