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Channel 4's Chief Exec Speaks

We've had various statements from Channel 4 over the past few days, but now the absolute top nobs (well, he's singular, but we can't say top nob!) of Channel 4 has spoken out.

At a press conference today at the Oxford Media Convention 2007, Channel 4's Chief Executive Andy Duncan made the following statement:

"In the seven years that it has been on air, Big Brother has seldom been far from the headlines. The reason it commands so much attention, intentionally or unintentionally, is that it goes to the heart of who we are as individuals and as a society.

The latest series of Celebrity Big Brother has strayed into particularly controversial territory: the issue of racism, and whether or not it remains ingrained in British attitudes despite all the progress we have apparently made towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

The level of complaint and comment shows that the programme has touched a real nerve.

The debate has been heated, the viewing has at times been uncomfortable, but, in my view, it is unquestionably a good thing that the programme has raised these issues and provoked such a debate. These attitudes, however distasteful, do persist – we need to confront that truth.

What constitutes racism is a complex question. We have been monitoring extremely carefully events in the house and have reached the view that we cannot, with certainty, say that the comments directed at Shilpa have been racially motivated, or whether they stem from broader cultural and social differences.

We have already intervened with Danielle and, as viewers will see on Thursday night's highlights show, again with Jade, where we felt their comments might be construed to have racist overtones. Producers also spoke to Shilpa today (Thursday, 18/01/07), who said that she did not feel the behaviour towards her was racist.

We will not hesitate to intervene again if apparently racist behaviour occurs.

Big Brother's unique strength is that it's ultimately the public who will decide whether or not the behaviour of certain contestants has been unacceptable.

On Friday night, Jade and Shilpa will face the public vote. The British public has the opportunity to cut through the claim and counter-claim and pass its judgement on the events of the past week.

In the last 25 years Channel 4 has undoubtedly played a major role as a broadcaster to inform and educate viewers about issues of race. This is a role that I intend Channel 4 to continue playing."

So, they are clearly taking things seriously and Channel 4 are, in a way, pleased that the issues of bullying and racism have been raised.

They are probably not quite so pleased that main BB sponsor Carphone Warehouse has threatened to pull out, losing the broadcaster £££millions in revenue.

The furore will inevitably die down and the controversy will doubtless blow over, but whether the sponsorship issue gets resolved by the time Big Brother 8 starts is anyone's guess.

In the meantime, heads will surely roll as the show's producers should have taken action sooner, and perhaps even limited Jade's stay in the House right from the start?

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