Sponsor Pulls Out Of U.K.'s -Big Brother-
A sponsor dropped Britain's "Celebrity Big Brother" on Thursday following thousands of complaints that Indian film star Shilpa Shetty was the target of racial abuse, though she declared that race was not the reason she has clashed with housemates,
Channel 4 Chief Executive Andy Duncan insisted that the reality TV show would continue, saying it was unclear if the abuse was racist.
Following an argument with housemate Jade Goody, Shetty initially said she believed she was the target of racial abuse. But then in an interview released by Channel 4, Shetty said: "I think there are a lot of insecurities from her end, but it's definitely not racial."
As political pressure and the number of complaints from the public grew, the Carphone Warehouse, a chain of stores selling mobile phone contracts, said it was suspending its sponsorship of the Channel 4 show.
"Our concern has rapidly mounted about the broadcast behavior of individuals within the `Big Brother' house," CEO Charles Dunstone said. "We are totally against all forms of racism and bullying, and indeed this behavior is entirely at odds with the brand values of the Carphone Warehouse."
Photos: Bollywood Fashion Awards
A chain of perfume shops also said it would stop selling a fragrance that Goody has endorsed.
And an insurance company said it was terminating a modeling contract with former beauty queen Danielle Lloyd, who has also clashed with Shetty.
Ofcom, the independent regulator of Britain's media and telecom industries, said it had received 27,000 complaints by Thursday afternoon about alleged racial abuse by several contestants targeting Shetty.
Throughout the show, Shetty, 31, has repeatedly been reduced to tears by Goody, who has called the actress' cooking untrustworthy, mocked her accent and complained about her "screeching." Another contestant said Indians were thin because they undercooked their food.
Anger has erupted in India, as well, with newspapers there featuring the story on front pages. Indian and British leaders both have been compelled to comment on the issue.
By Robert Barr