Network makes on-air apologies

LONDON — U.K. pubcaster Channel 4 has been forced to make an unprecedented series of on-air apologies over a “serious lack of editorial judgment” in the row over alleged racism in “Celebrity Big Brother.”

While the censure by British media regulator Ofcom stops short of a fine, the ruling represents a major humiliation for C4, particularly chairman Luke Johnson and CEO Andy Duncan.

The furor over what many viewers regarded as the racist bullying of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty in January’s season of the Endemol reality show led to 45,000 complaints and even involved U.K. prime minister in waiting Gordon Brown during an official visit to India.

In its ruling Ofcom said that three incidents aired by C4 broke the broadcasting code: Housemate Jade Goody referring to the actress as “Shilpa Poppadom”; another contestant saying that Shetty should “fuck off” home; and a dispute over Shetty cooking a chicken, ending with housemates making abusive remarks about Indian eating habits.

The regulator ordered Channel 4 to screen the findings three times when the next series of “Big Brother” kicks off in the U.K. on Wednesday.

C4 chief exec Duncan, said: “We accept Ofcom’s judgment that on the occasions in question we did not ensure that ‘Big Brother’ intervened with the necessary promptness or strength. We would like to say sorry once again for the offense caused to viewers as a result.”

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