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Channel 4 guilty of 'serious editorial misjudgement'

By Samira Ahmed

Updated on 24 May 2007

Channel 4 found guilty of serious failures over the Big Brother racism row - can the programme survive and will heads roll?

Racism dressed up as entertainment, is how the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell described the bullying of Shilpa Shetty. But it turned a ratings disaster into a global news story; prompting 45,000 complaints to Ofcom along the way.

Ofcom criticised Channel 4 for failing "to handle the situation properly" over three specific incidents.

Some politicians at the time accused Channel 4 executives of evading the issue; perhaps because huge profits were at stake, with the extra viewers the row was pulling in.

But there was no financial penalty for what Ofcom called "serious editorial misjudgement" and "breaching the broadcast code."

Andy Duncan interview

Channel 4 News' chief executive Andy Duncan defended the actions after calls for him to resign.

Watch the full interview

Instead, the Channel will have to broadcast the watchdog's adjudication on three occasions at the start of the imminent new series of Big Brother.

And even the woman at the heart of it all is letting Channel 4 off the hook, saying

"I have no grudges against anybody - not the people who head Channel 4, not the people who were in the house with me. I've moved on."

Shilpa Shetty interview - Channel 4 News

Speaking to Channel Four News in an interview last month Shilpa Shetty was asked for her reaction if OFCOM found against Channel four - She said:

"I have no grudges against anybody - not the people who head Channel 4, not the people who were in the house with me. I've moved on. For me it's a closed topic."

Shilpa said of the Big Brother programme:

"It was really clear right from the beginning in our contract that we were responsible for our actions and they would protect us if we got assaulted or if any of the housemates got (physically) aggressive."

"It was our problem we had to deal with it and that was the whole deal".

Asked whether she felt if anyone was at fault over the Big Brother row Shilpa added:

"I don't want to blame anybody. If people didn't want to watch it then they shouldn't have watched it".

- Watch the Shilpa Shetty interview

Ofcom did reveal that the broadcaster chose to keep one overtly racist incident in the house secret.

The fact they chose not to apply much heavier sanctions, suggests that the executives behind Big Brother may be pretty certain they're safe from eviction.

Top ten Big Brother controversies

4. Makosi the plant? In the final week of Big Brother's sixth series, The Sun newspaper claimed that Big Brother producers had paid a talent agency in order to get Zimbabwean nurse Makosi Musambasi on the show. This was denied by Big Brother, who said the money was for work relating to one of its sister shows.
- Top ten Big Brother controversies

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