A couple of years ago I read Ben Elton’s excellent ‘Dead Famous’ – a work of fiction that is clearly based on ‘Big Brother’. One of the things the book amply demonstrates is the power that programme editors have to select not only which bits of twenty four hours of tedium will make the best television, but also how we will perceive each inmate. The ‘live’ coverage of Big Brother is virtually unwatchable, since the sound is constantly muted because no-one knows what contestants may say.
I get the impression that Channel 4 is trying to sit back and take an attitude of ‘well, we didn’t say it – the housemates did’. It won’t wash. Channel 4 executives are loving the controversy. Prior to the racist comments, viewing figures for the tired show were languishing. They must have rubbed their hands at every bigotted comment.
I wonder if the loss of sponsorship from ‘Carphone Warehouse’ has hurt them enough in the pocket? I remember hearing a defence of Alf Garnett that ran along the lines of ‘he’s showing up bigots’. The trouble was that some bigots were so ignorant that they regarded Alf a their hero. The sad truth is that most bigots aren’t very bright. They’ll conclude that if it’s OK for their TV heroes to have such attitudes – it’s OK for them too.
Channel 4 could have taken a more responsible stand, and canned the offensive comments – but then, that wouldn’t have made as many people switch on, would it?