UK Celebrity Big Brother loses sponsorship over racism allegations

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Logo of the British Celebrity Big Brother television show.

In the United Kingdom, The Carphone Warehouse, Celebrity Big Brother's sponsor, has pulled out after some of the reality TV show's contestants were accused of racism, with which the company did not want to be associated. The Perfume Shop has announced they will withdraw the perfume Shh... of Jade Goody, one of the contestants accused of bullying with a racist undertone. Motorcycle insurance company Bennetts unilaterally terminated its deal with former Miss England Danielle Lloyd to front an advertisement campaign.

The accusations centre around recent comments made by Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara (a former member of pop act S Club 7) about Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. The racism row was sparked by Jade's mother, who referred to Shilpa as "the Indian", instead of calling her by her name. She also asked Shilpa: "Do you live in a house or a shack?" There have been remarks over her accent, her alleged lack of hygiene when cooking, and reactions because she touched the food of housemates with her hands. Danielle Lloyd said: "You don't know where those hands have been." Lloyd also commented to Goody about the Indian actress: "She wants to be white".

When asked about the incident in the Diary Room, Shetty said "...I don't feel there was any racial discrimination happening from Jade's end. I think there are a lot of insecurities from her end but it's definitely not racial."

Hertfordshire Police, the constabulary within which the Big Brother House falls, have received numerous formal complaints they will be investigating. Politicians, other celebrities, and fans spoke of their disgust as the UK media regulator Ofcom received a record number of complaints that rose tonight to 33,000. The Commission for Racial Equality is investigating if the footage was manipulated to deliberately imply racism.

Labour Party MP Keith Vaz even proposed a motion in the House of Commons condemning the abuse. He said "If this racist behaviour goes on, they [Jo O'Meara, Danielle Lloyd and Jade Goody] should be asked to leave". Chancellor Gordon Brown, currently on tour in India, told reporters in Bangalore: "I want to reassure people that what British people are proud of is our reputation for tolerance and fairness." Others believe this reflects a racist tendency in British our Western society in general. The newspaper Times of India ran the headline "Big(ot) Brother bullies Shilpa". "What is happening in Big Brother is just holding the mirror to the western society. This is the real, discriminating face of the West.", was the reaction of Bollywood film director Mahesh Bhatt. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, accused Channel 4 of damaging the country's reputation.

The show was recently losing viewers, but as a result of the controversy, viewing rates are up for the program.

Sources

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