The TV parts that black men can't reach


The multinational brewing giant Heineken was at the centre of a race row last night after it said there were too many "negroes" in the audience of a new television show it is sponsoring.

Hotel Babylon, a youth culture and music show, is being produced by Planet 24, the television company set up by Sir Bob Geldof to launch The Big Breakfast. The new show will be broadcast tonight on ITV by Granada Television.

Pilot editions of the show featured Dani Behr, a former presenter of the "youth" show The Word, announcing live music acts such as soul singer Seal and the reggae artist Shaggy from a mock hotel bar, with Heineken products on display.

But last month Justus Kos, from Heineken's sponsorship department at its head office in Amsterdam, faxed Planet 24 demanding more "Heineken- ising" of the show. "More evidence of beer is not just requested but needed."

His 20 December fax also criticised studio audiences: "The audience should be aspirational but not too much on the edge. There was a too high proportion of negroes. Although the audience group seems to be a mixture, director and/or camera crew have a tendency towards selecting just extravagant people. Also 'normal' people should be filmed."

The fax from Heineken - advertising slogan: "refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach" - also called for "less men drinking wine, preferably masculine drinks like beer, whisky".

Sir Bob Geldof, a founder and still major shareholder in Planet 24, yesterday said Heineken could "go f... themselves" as far as he was concerned. "I heard about the infamous fax and I hooted with derision. It is our programme, not Heineken's."

Bernie Grant, Labour MP for Tottenham, wrote to Heineken this week demanding an explanation for the fax. "This is a reflection on the privatisation of television where increasing amounts of airtime are devoted to private productions," he said. "Inevitably, powerful multinational sponsors will seek to influence editorial control. One can't help being deeply concerned when this influence has a racist guise."

Last night Karel Vuursteen, chief executive of Heineken worldwide, reacted to the fax with dismay. Replying to Mr Grant, he said: "Having read the original, only one thing can be said about it: it should never have been written. I am truly shocked about the content of the paragraph you refer to, since it is totally against everything Heineken stands for. Heineken denounces all discrimination and will live up to that. I hope you can accept my sincere apology and I can assure you that proper steps will be taken to prevent recurrence."

A spokesman for Heineken said its export brand was sold in 177 countries and was the most widely drunk beer in the UK, with 125 million pints consumed each year. He refused to comment on Mr Kos's fate, but he promised: "There will be no repeat of this."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas