Pressure mounts on C4 over race row
Monday 22 January 2007
Channel 4 is coming under increasing fire from all sides as its board prepares to meet today to discuss the furore generated by the Big Brother race row.
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, has called on the television channel to publicly admit mishandling the situation and for its chairman, Luke Johnson, to be censured. The shadow Culture Secretary Hugo Swire accused Channel 4 of "chasing ratings at the expense of good taste".
Chief executive Andy Duncan is expected to be heavily criticised at today's meeting after producers failed to intervene when the Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty was first subjected to racial abuse by other housemates.
Jade Goody, one of the catalysts to the international race row, continued to express her remorse yesterday, conceding that Ms Shetty had been a victim of "bullying and racism".
Ms Goody, 25, said she was "shocked and disgusted" by her behaviour on the Channel 4 show. Denying she was a racist, she admitted that some of her remarks could be interpreted thus, adding: "I hate myself right now."
Pressure, however, was on executives to show equal contrition as the chorus of criticism mounted. Audiences peaked at 8.8 million when Ms Goody was forced to explain her behaviour upon eviction, while the broadcasting regulator has received 40,000 complaints.
Channel 4's deputy chairman Lord Puttnam, along with two of his non-executive directors, dotcom entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox and equal opportunities commissioner Sue Ashtiany, are expected to lead the criticism at today's meeting. Mr Phillips said: "The board has to make clear that they got it wrong, they intervened too little too late [and] they should censure Luke Johnson."
He continued: "If the board does not take that stand then I think [Culture Secretary] Tessa Jowell has to step in and ask if this is a board that is capable of holding a public asset in trust for us. I think it is that serious."
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