Friday, 19 January 2007

Shami Chakrabarti calls the shots on Celebrity Big Brother

The fuss turned to outrage, the outrage turned into a diplomatic incident, and now Channel 4 have announced that they intend to do the decent thing, and donate the profits of tonight's Celebrity Big Brother to charity. This is supposed to prove to the world that they're not just manipulative profit-mongers, and they don't want to make unfair gains from the Jade Goody racism row.

I don't think it proves anything of the sort. The massive amount of press coverage has driven their ratings up anyway, and that effect is going to last well beyond the eviction show. The increased revenue over the rest of the series will net them far more than they lose by making a donation. The execs seem to have picked exactly the right moment, economically speaking, to calm things down. They've chosen the equilibrium point between people switching on in curiosity, and switching off in disgust.

Timing aside, the way in which the contestants have acted seems suspicious. Shilpa Shetty, the victimised Bollywood star, said she was being racially bullied a few days ago; now she says she isn't. The contestants are supposed to have no idea how the outside world sees them, so this is far too convenient. Most suspiciously of all, Jade Goody has apologised if she "offended any Indians out there" - when Jade Goody starts thinking of people other than herself, you know something's up. To be honest, I'm impressed she's heard of India.

What's more, Channel 4's charitable gesture isn't quite as original as it sounds. The suits were obviously watching BBC Question Time last night, where panellist Shami Chakrabarti suggested donating the Big Brother profits to charity. She said that if they gave the money to anti-racism and anti-bullying campaigns, it would be a very appropriate gesture.

Of course, it also means that people can feel less guilty about watching the show, and that the "great regulator known as the off button" won't cut into Channel 4's profits. That really is appalling cynicism on my part, isn't it? Maybe I'm cut out for a career in reality TV ...


Anonymous said...

Actually, Jade Goodie has BEEN to India.

That doesn't excuse her behaviour, of course, but I don't think cheap shots at people's ignorance are much better than cheap shots at their heritage.

Jonny Wright said...

It's only intended a a mild dig at Jade, in the context of a fairly tongue-in-cheek article. An article, incidentally, which is mainly criticising Channel 4, and which isn't weighing in on the racism debate at all.

I think there's a massive difference between poking fun of someone on a blog they'll almost certainly never read, and racially victimising someone in person. Jade Goody (spelled with a y at the end) won't take any psychological damage away from this article.

If people want to take issue with me, or with the things I write on this blog, I'm more than happy for them to write in and criticise, but if people have a leg to stand on, they're generally not too scared to give me their name and email address.

Robert Jackman said...

Shilpa may have said it wasn't racist - but she also confided in Cleo that it was race motivated.

But how does Shilpa know what has gone on anyway? Most of the savage bullying has been behind her back.

The ones who have seen it all are the viewers, and already 45,000 have complained - that seems to confirmation that it was racist behaviour.

I've just blogged on this whole issue; let me know what you think:

Robert :)

Anonymous said...

On the whole i have to say i agree with you on this one Johnny. But, as usual, my commenting you has an alterior motive. Namely, to plug my new blog post which is on Big Brother, although very different to yours. Do have a read, as i'm rather proud of it.

Duncan Borrowman said...

I hate to say it, but I heard Keith Vaz call for this in the House (of Commons not Big Brother) before Shami.

Jonny Wright said...

Cheers for that Duncan, sorry I didn't notice. BBC Question Time is usually more entertaining than the Commons!

monsterravingloony said...

I second your response to the anonymous first comment.

First, Jade Goody has made a highly lucrative career out of being ignorant so it's hardly an insult she's likely to protest about.

Second, I think there's a huge difference between taking someone to task for their ignorance and behaving in a racist way. The latter is not acceptable but there are circumstances when the former is OK. For example, I couldn't get away with making a racist comment to an employee but could berate them for their incompetence if they foul up.

Or will we outlaw "thickism" to ensure no-one becomes a victim through having been poorly endowed with grey matter by mother nature? This leads to the crazy scenario beautifully encapsulated by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1961 short story Harrison Bergeron.

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