Racist slur makes Shilpa, show a runaway hit | india | Hindustan Times
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Racist slur makes Shilpa, show a runaway hit

The outrage in India and Britain over Shilpa Shetty's treatment in Celebrity Big Brother appears to have gained both her and the programme substantial mileage, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2007 01:58 IST
Vijay Dutt

The outrage in India and Britain over Shilpa Shetty's treatment in Celebrity Big Brother appears to have gained both her and the programme substantial mileage.

Bookmakers William Hill announced on Wednesday they had cut the odds of Celebrity Big Brother not lasting its scheduled run from 20/1 to 5/2.

Its spokesman Rupert Adams said, "Channel 4 could make their decision for any number of reasons, and despite the fact that Big Brother is one of their success stories, we will not be offering such generous odds in the future."

Shetty emerged as the bookmakers' favourite to win the contest. William Hill quoted odds of 6/4 that she would triumph, after taking a rush of bets for her in the previous 24 hours. "So far today, every penny has been put on Shilpa," Adams said. "She has stuck in there and if she now picks up the public sympathy vote, punters certainly believe she will be very hard to beat."

The show's housemates, including Shilpa, are unaware of the furore outside. Filmed by hidden cameras, their antics can be watched 24 hours a day, and the highlights are played every evening.

Meanwhile, show sponsor Carphone Warehouse appeared to first decide to pull out of the show and then, possibly sensing its zooming popularity, have second thoughts.

Wednesday's The Times quoted Carphone Warehouse chief executive Charles Dunstone as saying, "We are talking to Channel 4. The sponsorship is constantly under review. Clearly, we are against racism." Later in the day, however, a company spokesman said an internal email had gone out to employees that said, "We are not planning or pulling out…We are against racism in any shape or form and have full faith in Channel 4 that they will deal with any serious allegations such as this in the appropriate way."

A TV programme analyst said the publicity had given Channel 4 reasons to be delighted. With most Asians now glued to the show, the audience has swelled, going up to 4.5 million on Tuesday as against 3.9 million the previous day.

Hertfordshire Police, who cover the sets in Elstree where the programme is being filmed, said Channel 4 producers had passed them two e-mails containing "unspecified threats" against some of the contestants. "Police are currently looking into the emails," a spokesperson said.

However, a spokesman for Channel 4 and Endemol, makers of Big Brother, countered, "The social interactions and dynamics of the group are one of the key parts. Viewers have a right to see these portrayed accurately. However, this is balanced with our duty not to broadcast material that may cause unjustifiable offence."

(With agency inputs)