Win-Win Scenario for UK Channel's Reality Show Sham

22 January 2007

LONDON: The carefully concocted and orchestrated racial furore surrounding Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother 'reality' TV show was a PR masterstroke that benefited almost every player in the crass farce.

It not only propelled to global fame one of the show's so-called celebrities - Bollywood actress Shipa Shetty, an alleged victim of racist abuse by two fellow participants - it also rocketed the ratings for a show whose popularity was rapidly heading southbound.

The row also provided a welcome platform for Britain's political correctness industry, enveloping even prime-minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown (conveniently on a visit to India at the time) and London's opportunist rent-a-quote mayor Ken Livingstone.

Better yet, the orchestrated outrage - fanned by the nation's avid tabloids - gifted programme sponsor Carphone Warehouse with the opportunity to indulge in pious righteousness by temporarily 'suspending' its £3 million backing for the show.

Meantime, C4 ceo Andy Duncan managed to hide his dismay at the show's soaring ratings behind a facade of Olympian dispassion.

"The debate has been heated, the viewing has at times been uncomfortable," he intoned. "But in my view it is unquestionably a good thing that the programme has raised these issues and provoked such a debate. These attitudes, however distasteful, do persist [and] we need to confront that truth."

Duncan then switched to 'nuffink to do wiv us, guv' mode: "Big Brother's unique strength is that it is ultimately the public who will decide whether or not the behaviour of certain contestants has been unacceptable."

All's well that ends well, then.

Save, perhaps, for now-evicted contestant Jade Goody, an alleged perpetrator of the racist abuse, whose own-branded perfume has now been withdrawn from the nation's retail outlets.

Oddly enough, Shetty, the alleged victim, has made no complaint whatever - on air or off - of being abused racially. But why let a simple truth get in the way of a promotional bonanza?

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff