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Reality TV show sparks international furor

An Indian shopkeeper reads an afternoon newspaper with the story of the apparent racist row involving Indian actress Shilpa Shetty, which erupted on Britain's Celebrity Big Brother.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BOB MOON: Reality TV has gotten a bit too real in Britain these days. Seems the popular show Big Brother has turned too nasty for some viewers and created an international incident of sorts. Marketplace's Stephen Beard is joining us from London with more on this. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Good morning Bob.

MOON: It's hard to believe that just a television program like Big Brother could create an international furor. Tell me what's been going on from the start.

BEARD: Yes. Celebrity Big Brother, Britain's best-known reality TV show, has caused an absolute furore with questions in the House of Commons, with the producers being burnt in effigy in India and with economic repercussions in the UK. The sponsor of the show, Carphone Warehouse, Europe's largest cell phone retailer, has canceled its $6 million sponsorship.

MOON: And how did this all start?

BEARD: Well it all started with an exchange within the house between some of the contestants. Very often what happens in this show, I gather, is that the contestants berate each other regularly. But on this occasion, one of the contestants Shilpa Shetty came under a torrent of abuse that had racial overtones.

MOON: And this actually affected official efforts to boost trade with India?

BEARD: That's right. The finance chief Gordon Brown was on a trip to India at the time and his trip was completely overshadowed

MOON: Any repercussions for the networks that carries this program?

BEARD: Yes, the network, Channel 4 is state-owned and this has raised speculation that the government may now wish to privatize Channel 4 since its remit as a state-owned company is public service, but these incidents are hardly in the highest traditions of public service broadcasting.

MOON: It's not like public TV here in America anyway. Thank you Stephen Beard in London.

BEARD: OK Bob.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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