Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bye bye Big Brother, enter Little Britain

Channel Four should be congratulated for unwittingly doing more to expose Britain’s racist undercurrent than any TV documentary.

I say unwittingly because it’s, sadly, the natural consequence of putting such a cross-section of our so-called integrated society under the microscope.

No amount of subterfuge, lapel cameras, hidden microphones or Donal Mcintyres could have unearthed the uncomfortable attitudes and reactions we are now having to face.

From the moment three girls giggling under a duvet like some teenage sleepover began to isolate Shilpa Shetty to Channel Four’s denial, Ofcom boss Ed Richards’ refusal to “rush to judgment” and Gordon Brown’s repeated use of the world “tolerance,” Big Brother gave way to Little Britain.

What does that collectively say? We simply don’t know we’re doing it. If we do, we’re in denial and if we’re not, we simply don’t like to talk about it.

In fact, so cautious have been some broadcasters that many are still referring to these blatant ethnic attacks as “alleged racism”.

Viewer complaints have been rising by the hour like the death toll after an earthquake. Technology has helped here. Bloggers, dedicated websites, email discussions, SMS appeals by TV and radio have opened up the discussion. But they haven’t inflated the issue as some have suggested.

Many have found it good sport. Sheena Hastings of the Yorkshire Post summed up the scene more vividly than most when she described an Afghan hound surrounded by pit-bulls.

Every time we have to deal with something so uncomfortably close to home, we trivialise it on the basis that we all know it happens but, hey, life goes on. Then we ask, why aren’t the papers reporting the real issues such as global warming, famine or or Iraq?

They are. But this is the issue of the moment and the press is good at tapping into the public mood and writing about what people are talking about. And I make no excuses for repeating myself here - that’s the saving grace in all this.

I’d rather this appalling reflection of ourselves prompted public outrage than the uncomfortably silence that allows it to happen.

PR tip to Gordon Brown: don’t overdo tolerant. We tolerate noisy neighbours and unruly kids, not someone who has carved a fabulously successful career in one of the most thriving film industries in the world.

PR tip to Dirk: When is the A-team going to show its Face and come to the rescue?


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