Prime minister, finance minister pulled into race row

OXFORD — The sponsor of Channel 4’s “Celebrity Big Brother” has cut its links with the show in the wake of a row about allegedly racist remarks made by some of the contestants.

Charles Dunstone, CEO of Carphone Warehouse, said: “Our concern has rapidly mounted about the broadcast behavior of individuals within the ‘Big Brother’ house.

“We are totally against all forms of racism and bullying and indeed this behavior is entirely at odds with the brand values of Carphone Warehouse. As a result we feel that as long as this continues we are unable to associate our brand with the program.”

Pressure is mounting for Blighty’s media regulator Ofcom to punish Channel 4. The watchdog has received a record number of complaints — now at 30,000 and rising rapidly — over the alleged racist bullying of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty by fellow contestants.

Ofcom’s CEO Ed Richards said Thursday it will not be rushed into “a kangaroo court” over the escalating row, but he raised the possibility that sanctions could be imposed on the broadcaster.

He said, “We are taking the issue very seriously. However, I do not propose a kangaroo court so the last thing I will do is sit here and give a private opinion.

“We will not be rushed into making a judgement and then regretting it.

“In the next couple of weeks we will write to Channel 4 and once we’ve received a reply from them assess if there has been a breach of the broadcasting code.

“There are sanctions we can implement and if we get to that position we will look at what is appropriate.”

Richards was speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, where he delivered the keynote speech.

During his address he referred to “the wonderful range of programs” Channel 4 broadcasts, such as the recent drama “Longford” and, without mentioning “Celebrity Big Brother” by name, its “more colorful, controversial output.”

The Ofcom topper stressed it was important to look beyond the morning’s headlines.

In the U.K. the surreal spat over “Celebrity Big Brother” is dominating news coverage and Wednesday prompted comments from the Prime Minister Tony Blair and from finance minister Gordon Brown, asked about the row by reporters on a tour of India.

In Patna there were demonstrations in the street about the alleged racist bullying of the Bollywood star.

Brown said he regarded the comments made during the show as “offensive” adding: “I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn.”

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