Amid a raging row over alleged racism against Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, UK’s Channel 4 has denied that the Indian star suffered racist bullying on its TV show Celebrity Big Brother, but said it will not tolerate any such controversial incidents during the rest of the series.
The broadcaster has given guarantees to the show’s sponsor Carphone Warehouse that any such behaviour during the rest of the series could result in removal of the offending housemate.
Shetty, meanwhile, has sobbingly admitted on the show that she feels the sniping against her in the Big Brother house is racist. ‘I don’t deserve this,’ she told fellow participant Cleo Rocos.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said in the House of Commons yesterday that he was ‘opposed to racism in all its forms’ while Chancellor Gordon Brown, currently on a visit to India, said he had heard about the volume of complaints regarding Celebrity Big Brother.
Channel 4 pledged to ‘take necessary steps’ to avoid escalating the situation further, after it and media regulator Ofcom received at least 21,000 complaints over the past 48 hours about alleged racism in the Celebrity Big Brother house, media reports said today. Sponsors are not allowed to influence the editorial direction of TV programmes. However, according to a Guardian report, Carphone Warehouse founder and chief executive Charles Dunstone has spoken directly to Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan about the seriousness of the situation.
Carphone Warehouse said it had ‘no intention’ of pulling out of its current sponsorship of Celebrity Big Brother and was in ‘ongoing discussions’ with Channel 4 about the summer series of the show. ‘We are against racism in any shape or form. As sponsor we have no involvement in the content of the programme, but have full faith in Channel 4 and that they will deal with any serious allegations such as this in the appropriate way,’ the company said in a statement.
‘To date there has been no overt racial abuse or racist behaviour directed against Shilpa Shetty within the Big Brother house,’ the channel said. ‘However there has undoubtedly been a cultural and class clash between her and three of the British females in the house.’
The statement said that housemates had constant access to support from Big Brother, and Shetty had ‘not voiced any concerns of racial abuse.’
Channel 4 and TV regulator Ofcom have had more than 21,000 complaints about treatment of Shetty. Ofcom said it had received about 19,300 complaints about Celebrity Big Brother — a record for a television broadcast. Another 2,000 have been directed to Channel 4.
Hertfordshire Police said two email threats against housemates had been sent to Channel 4, but would not say if they related to the alleged racism. It had also forwarded about 40 complaints to Channel 4.
A spokesperson also confirmed they would investigate allegations of racism to take action and added that the force has experience of examining and resolving incidents in the Big Brother house.