'Big Brother' racism row escalates
Over 7,600 people have now complained to regulator Ofcom about Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty’s treatment by other contestants in the house. Channel 4 has received over 2,000 directly, with over 10,000 signing an online petition which has been forwarded to the broadcaster.
Ofcom said it would investigate each complaint and look into whether Channel 4 had broken the broadcasting code.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz has tabled an Early Day Motion in the Commons after being contacted by his constituents about the matter. He added that it emphasised the scale of influence the show has on viewers: "We would not tolerate this kind of racism on other types of television programme and we should not do so on a programme that is watched by millions of people,” he said.
Police in Hertfordshire are also investigating two emailed threats against the show’s housemates sent to Channel 4. Detectives also received a telephone call complaining about "alleged racist behaviour" on the programme. The caller was referred to the media watchdog Ofcom.
Carphone Warehouse, the show’s sponsor, says it is reviewing its £3 million support of the show. Chief executive Charles Dunstone told The Times: “We are talking to Channel 4. Clearly, we are against racism.”
The actress and comedian Meera Syal attacked Channel 4's "bland" response to the controversy, speaking on the BBC Asian Network, she said: "I certainly wouldn't have taken as much as Shilpa has taken. I'm just wondering if on their last series, for example, the Tourette's sufferer had been called a 'spaz' on a regular basis, whether they would have let that continue?"
A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "We are keeping the programme under review and welcome the decision of Ofcom to investigate individual complaints. We have noted recent events in the Big Brother House, which provide an interesting reflection of today's society."
Channel 4 yesterday described the incidents as "girly rivalry", but a spokesman has since said it was taking the matter seriously, stating: "Big Brother 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."
Elsewhere, I’m a Celebrity contestant Janet Street Porter attended a police station in Islington, North London last night, to be questioned by police about alleged racist abuse against a neighbour. No charges were brought against the ex-Fleet Street editor.