Channel 4 On The Back Foot Over Allegations
Channel 4 are on the back foot at the moment over the recent
bullying and racism allegations, having been forced to revise
their stance over the past few days as the issue has grown
to unbelievable proportions
It all started on Monday (15/01/07), when a rumour swept
around the net that Jack had referred to Shilpa as a p*ki.
In fact, that was a false allegation, but it stirred-up massive
interest in the issues raised and focussed attention on events
in the House.
At the time, even though they were aware that the alleged
'Jack incident' had been reported on Indian websites, Channel
4 issued this slightly dismissive statement, and it has to
be said that there wasn't exactly a great deal of urgency
in releasing it:
"The social interactions and dynamics of the group
are one of the key parts of the BB story, and viewers have
a right to see these portrayed accurately. However, this is
balanced with our duty not to broadcast material that may
cause unjustifiable offence.
We take this matter very seriously and BB does not tolerate
bullying or racist abuse in any form. Big Brother is closely
monitoring all the housemates and will take appropriate measures
to reprimand such behaviour where necessary.”
However, by the next day (16/01/07), it was front page news
on at least one tabloid newspaper, so, realising that the
issue was becoming a serious problem, Channel 4 revised their
joint Endemol statement to:
"Matters of bullying or racial abuse in any form
are taken extremely seriously by Channel 4 and Endemol. The
nature of the show often includes incidents where conflicts
arise and housemates are encouraged to resolve issues among
Housemates are closely monitored at all times to ensure they
have the appropriate support inside the house which includes
being able to talk in confidence to producers. Shilpa herself
has not voiced any concerns of racial slurs or bullying against
Appropriate measures to reprimand individual behaviour would
take place where necessary."
But by today, Wednesday the 17th of January, tens-of-thousands
of people had complained to TV regulator Ofcom, small pockets
of Indian protestors had been burning Endemol effigies, the
Indian government had expressed concern, and our own Prime
Minister issued a statement condemning racism.
So Channel 4, now in serious 'back-peddling' mode, trotted-out
yet another statement, this time saying:
"To date there has been no overt racial abuse or
racist behaviour directed against Shilpa Shetty within the
Big Brother house. However there has undoubtedly been a cultural
and class clash between her and three of the British females
in the house.
Unambiguous racist behaviour and language is not tolerated
under any circumstances in the Big Brother house. Housemates
are constantly monitored and Channel 4 would intervene if
a clear instance of this arose.
It is in the nature of Big Brother that conflicts arise
and housemates are encouraged to resolve issues among themselves.
Shilpa has not voiced any concerns of racial abuse to Big
Brother. Housemates have access to support from Big Brother
at all times.
The issue of whether there is racism in the CBB House
has been discussed on Channel 4's companion programmes BBLB
and BBBM and a range of views has been aired, including those
of BB viewers."
Shilpa's agent Jaz Barton appeared on the main Channel 4
news to say she thought there had been 'borderline racism'
in the House, and that Shilpa has probably put the conflict
down to cultural differences. "Shilpa is confident
and dignified in dealing with it the best way she can."
However, spokesperson for the National Assembly Against Racism
Lee Jasper dubbed it 'overt racism', saying, "It's
profoundly discriminatory: the comments that Shilpa's been
subjected-to in relation to her cooking, the wilful mispronunciation
of her name, the comments to her face and behind her back."
One thing's for sure, Celebrity Big Brother 5 has sparked
mass debate over the issues of bullying and racism, and that
can only be a good thing. It seems that the whole country,
whether BB fans or not, is getting involved, and so hopefully
Jade & Co's actions will not reflect on the British public
Although it looks unlikely that anyone is going to be ejected
from the House, the show's producers are set to have a serious
chat with the contestants involved soon.
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