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Politicians enter Big Brother row 1/17/2007
The prime minister has said Britons "should oppose racism in all its forms" amid allegations of racist bullying on Channel 4''s Celebrity Big Brother.
Tony Blair told the House of Commons that he could not comment on the actual programme because he had not seen it.

TV regulator Ofcom said it was looking into a record 14,500 complaints about treatment of Indian star Shilpa Shetty.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, on a visit to India, said Britain should be "seen as a country of fairness and tolerance".

He said the issue had been raised repeatedly during his trip.

Mr Blair was speaking at prime minister''s questions in response to a question from Keith Vaz MP, who said "broadcasters need to take great care before they publish any such prejudices to millions of people throughout the country".

This House calls on the programme to take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable

House of Commons Early Day Motion

What is an Early Day Motion?
Treasury Minister Ed Balls earlier told BBC Two''s Daily Politics programme that the suggestion of racism in the UK projected an "appalling" image around the world.

The Indian government is awaiting a report on the programme and could raise the matter with the UK.

Anand Sharma, India''s junior minister for external affairs, said: "The government will take appropriate measures once it gets to know the full details. Racism has no place in civilised society."

Audience boost

The approximately 14,500 complaints received by Ofcom is a record for a television broadcast.

A further 2,000 complaints have been made directly to Channel 4.

Diplomats here in India say the row is damaging Britain''s reputation

BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Read Nick''s thoughts in full
Celebrity Big Brother drew its third-largest audience of the series on Tuesday evening.

The main highlights show averaged 4.5 million viewers, up from 3.5 million on Monday and 3.9 million on Tuesday last week.

Retailer Carphone Warehouse, which sponsors Big Brother, has denied reports that it is reviewing the deal.

"We are against racism in any shape or form and have full faith in Channel 4 and that they will deal with any serious allegations such as this in the appropriate way," a spokesman said.

Hertfordshire Police said two e-mail threats against housemates had been sent to Channel 4, but would not say if they related to the alleged racism.

I think the whole thing has been blown completely out of proportion

Donna, Essex

Send us your comments
Mr Vaz, MP for Leicester East, tabled an Early Day Motion on Tuesday to raise the issue in the House of Commons after being contacted by constituents.

The motion said that the House viewed "with concern the comments made about Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty by other housemates".

It called on the programme to "take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable".

''Absolutely absurd''

Housemates Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O''Meara have been seen making fun of Bollywood star Shetty''s accent.

On Monday night''s episode, former S Club 7 star O''Meara reportedly suggested that Indians were thin because they were always ill as a result of undercooking their food.

The trio also complained that Shetty had touched other housemates'' food with her hands.

Former beauty queen Lloyd said: "You don''t know where those hands have been."

Goody, a late arrival in the house, has repeatedly argued with Shetty
But a friend of Lloyd, Leeandra Anderson, said that the suggestion the housemate was racist was "absolutely absurd".

"I''ve known Danielle for five years now and not once has she had a racist undertone in her voice ever," she told BBC Radio Five Live.

A programme spokesman previously defended the decision to show the offending footage.

"The social interactions of the group are part of the Big Brother story and viewers have a right to see these portrayed accurately.

"This is balanced with our duty not to broadcast material that may cause unjustifiable offence."

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