More than 1,000 complaints have been made to the show’s regulator in regards to the programme and its spinoff show, Big Brother’s Bit on the Side. Ofcom is currently looking into the three incidents and will decide whether any of them breach the broadcasting code. If this is the case, the material must be justified by context to meet the code’s “generally accepted standards.”
The first incident — which involved housemate Conor McIntyre launching a string of insults against Miss India UK title holder Deana Uppal — provoked 1,108 complaints and caused many viewers to brand McIntyre as a ‘bully’. The show responded by issuing him a warning about his behaviour, where he replied with a series of expletives and more abuse against Uppal.
When contestant Caroline Wharram described African-American housemate Adam Kelly as a “ridiculous gorilla” with “no sanitation”, the show received a further 114 complaints by viewers that saw her comments as racist. Big Brother responded by calling her into the diary room and telling her that her comments were “unacceptable” and that they had a zero tolerance attitude towards such remarks.
In contrast to Conor, she apologised immediately, insisting: “I really didn’t mean it at all. I just didn’t think. That was really horrible. I’m really sorry.”
She also expressed her regret to Adam directly, telling him: “It’s not a personal attack. I do really like you. I just don’t react well and I’m really sorry. I genuinely like you.”
However it seems that her tearful apologies came too late as fans had already taken to Twitter to angrily slam her comments and demand that she be evicted from the house, like Emily Parr was in the 2007 series after using a racist word to a housemate.
Former Big Brother housemate Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, who appeared as a contestant in series seven, offered her opinion on Twitter, writing: “Caroline would not have used the world ‘gorilla’ to have described any other housemate, therefore it was a racist descriptive. End of.”
In a further incident during Big Brother’s spinoff, Big Brother’s Bit On The Side, former housemate Victor Ebuwa used the words “functioning retard” to describe current contestants, prompting a further three complaints.
Despite this year’s tirade of complaints, Big Brother is no stranger to controversy. Just last year, the show was found to have breached the broadcasting code after airing offensive language just after the watershed at 9pm.
It’s also not the first time the programme has become a racial hotbed — in 2007, Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd were involved in a race row against Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty; an argument which gained notoriety all over the country.