UK Big Brother Sparks Racism Debate

Racist bullying of a young Indian star in a prime-time UK reality show continues to make international headlines of a racist British society and has triggered a diplomatic crisis.

UK Big Brother Sparks Racism Debate

"Barely submerged xenophobia in Britain is a significant phenomenon in our society still," The Independent said in an editorial on Thursday, January 18.

It said the famous Big Brother reality show - where a group of celebrities are locked in a house under the scrutiny of 24-hour cameras – "holds a mirror to contemporary society."

Hundreds of thousands of world viewers have watched Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty repeatedly bullied with racist comments from British housemates.

The 31-year-old major movie star in India was mocked with bigot comments over her accent, her Indian cooking, and aspects of her culture.

The continuous live attack on the Indian actress prompted more than 30,000 complaints to media regulator Ofcom and the Big Brother broadcaster Channel 4.

Mobile communications retailer the Carphone Warehouse, the main backer of the television show, pulled its support as complaints spiraled and criticism mounted.

As a debate raged about whether Shetty's treatment was racially motivated or not, Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan rejected calls for the show to be taken off air.

"The debate has been heated, the viewing has at times been uncomfortable but, in my view, it is unquestionably a good thing that the program has raised these issues and provoked such a debate."

Channel 4 has been accused of exploiting the controversy for ratings.

Audience figures shot up to 5.7 million Wednesday night while shares in Dutch-based production company Endemol reportedly rose as a result.



"This is a racist country," Greer said in The Guardian.  

British dailies said the racism shown in the reality show was not alien to British society.

"The ugly behavior being seen on 'Big Brother' is, sadly, still all too common in our society," said The Independent.

Burhan Wazir of The Times said the attack on the Indian actress is a classic case of playground bullying.

"Newcomers everywhere have had similar experiences."

Commentator Germaine Greer said the show brought the worst out of Britons.

"This is a racist country," he wrote in The Guardian.

Greer said Britons should not be surprised at Shetty's treatment in a country where bigotry was widespread.

British author Hari Kunzru said the show was a huge embarrassment to Britain.

"This is what Big Brother is for. It holds a mirror up to national attitudes," Kunzru wrote in a comment to The Guardian.

"If we don't like what we see, we ought to change."


"Is this what today's UK is? Scary. It's quite a shame actually," Shetty said after receiving fresh race-based insults from fellow contestants.

"Am I not human? What about me is so different?"

The row, which dominated media in both countries, sparked a wider debate in Britain Thursday about the extent of racism in society.

It has escalated to the diplomatic level with senior Indian and British politicians weighing in.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a formal complaint from Indian Foreign Minister Anand Sharm and fears that the incident could sour relations and damage trade.

His heir apparent, Gordon Brown, was also dragged into the row during his visit to India on Wednesday.

"I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16