Jade Goody, the “tormentor” of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty in the Celebrity Big Brother show, has admitted that she made racist comments about the Indian actress.
“She (Shetty) was a victim of bullying and racism. I can understand why she would have said that,” Goody told the News of The World. “I am not going to justify my actions because they were wrong. I was shocked to see how I behaved. I was shocked and disgusted at myself,” she said. Goody said she would donate her fee for appearing on the show to charity.
But reality bites. The Big Brother programme seems to have hit its makers hard. The Channel 4 bosses are facing a backlash over the furore caused by Goody’s racist remarks and those of a few other “housemates” about Shilpa Shetty. Senior ministers have weighed in with critical observations while the Channel 4 board is meeting to discuss whether Big Brother should be discontinued after the present series ends this week.
Several members feel that allegations of racism have discredited the show to such an extent that it can damage Channel 4’s ratings in the long run. The board is chaired by Luke Johnson. The members include Lord Puttnam, film producer Tony Hall, former head of BBC News, dotcom entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, and Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City football club.
They are expected to ask for a quick paper on what went wrong last week and examine whether the programme should be pulled off the air. “Is the franchise dying now?” a board member was reported to have observed. “It certainly seems to be. Left to its own devices — that is, a so-called normal Big Brother without any manufactured row — it seems to be dying on its feet. Is it egitimate to sustain the programme simply by turning up the volume to grab attention when the channel itself has no control over the outcome?”
Key figures in the government have also criticised the show. Culture secretary Tessa Jowell was one of the leading critics, dubbing it “racism as entertainment”.