The producers of Celebrity Big Brother, Britain's latest
reality television show, are facing claims that they are allowing racial
slurs directed at one of the program's participants to be broadcast
unchecked. For VOA News, Tom Rivers reports from London.
Thousands have e-mailed complaints to the broadcasting regulating body
here calling the behavior depicted on the program, blatantly racist.
As they see it, a number of the fellow competitors have been verbally
abusing fellow participant Shilpa Shetty, a well-known Indian film
Shetty is the only Asian on the show.
Over the past few days she has been brought to tears on a number of
occasions by comments made by others contestants regarding her accent, her
skin color and other remarks seen as derogatory.
The program runs for three weeks and over that time period the
celebrities in the specially constructed house are constantly filmed. Each
participant also carries a live microphone. Gradually, the contestants are
voted off the show until the last one remaining is declared the winner.
The format has been around in Britain for a number of years, but this
the first time that the broadcaster, Channel Four, has had to deal with
claims of airing allegedly racist remarks.
Such is the sensitivity of the issue that Prime Minister Tony Blair was
asked about it during his weekly parliamentary Question Time session on
"I have not seen the particular program in question and therefore
cannot comment on it but of course I would agree entirely with the
principle he has outlined which is that we should oppose racism in all its
forms," he said.
The question was raised by fellow Labor Party parliamentarian Keith
"I was pleased with what the prime minister said, but it is for the
broadcaster to make sure that they intervene and prevent the broadcasting
of prejudices to millions of people throughout this country," he said.
In addition to the public outcry in Britain, the issue has spilled over
into India where a number of protests have been held.
On a trip to India, Gordon Brown - the man expected to succeed Mr.
Blair as Britain's next prime minister - said the more than 10,000
complaints made so far by British people shows the depth of feeling that
Britain is a country of fairness and tolerance.
The behavior of the Big Brother participants will be closely monitored
over the next few days. At this stage it is unclear if the program makers
will have to intervene directly.