Indian government to raise Big Brother racism concerns

INDIA is set to raise allegations of racism on Celebrity Big Brother with the UK government, as the number of complaints about the show rose above 16,000.

The treatment of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty has been reported by newspapers and television news bulletins across the sub-continent, leading the Indian government to step into the row.

The move will add to the growing pressure on Channel 4 bosses to halt alleged racism on the programme.

Anand Sharma, India's junior minister for external affairs, said in New Delhi today: "We are awaiting a report about the show. The government will take appropriate measures once it gets to know the full details.

"Racism has no place in civilised society."

However, Downing Street sought to avoid being drawn into the controversy as the Prime Minister's official spokesman said Tony Blair had not seen the programme.

"His position on racism is well-known, the track record of the government is well-known," he said.

"Racism of any kind is wrong, but what I will not do is comment on his behalf on a programme that he has not seen."

Media watchdog Ofcom said today the number of complaints had risen to 14,500. A further 2000 viewers have contacted Channel 4 to voice their dismay.

Meanwhile, Labour MP and former minister for Europe Keith Vaz called on the broadcaster to take "effective action" against "unacceptable" racist language allegedly used against 31-year-old Shetty.

He said: "The language that is being used, the way in which it is being used, the things that are being said, are just not acceptable in this day and age.

"For a broadcaster to allow these comments to go out unchecked . . . I know there are some bleeps here and there and goodness knows what they are saying that has been bleeped out."

Mr Vaz has tabled an Early Day Motion condemning the way that Shetty has been treated on the programme.

Complaints began to flood in after Jade Goody, her mother Jackiey Budden and boyfriend Jack Tweed, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara allegedly began bullying the Indian actress.

In one outburst, Lloyd asked Shetty: "Do you get stubble?"

In another, Budden, who constantly called her "the Indian", asked: "Do you live in a house or a shack?"

Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, has said he is reviewing the firm's 3 million annual sponsorship of Celebrity Big Brother in the light of alleged racism in the house. He said: "We are talking to Channel 4. The sponsorship is constantly under review. Clearly, we are against racism."

Mr Dunstone's comments are the latest blow for the show, which has already seen three celebrities walk out and suffered disappointing viewing figures.

Bookmaker William Hill has cut the odds of Celebrity Big Brother not lasting its scheduled run from 20/1 to 5/2 as pressure builds on the programme.

Big Brother rules state that anyone guilty of racist abuse in the house can be evicted.

Tensions continued to run high in the house yesterday, with Goody branding Shetty "pathetic, fake and a liar" in a row over stock cubes.

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