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28/06/2005

Reality TV ‘aids racial understanding’

Reality TV shows, such as ‘Big Brother’, have done more to promote racial and ethnic understanding than any other media creation in recent years, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has claimed.
Sir Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the CRE, will deliver a speech on the impact of reality TV on race relations at the Commission’s Race in the Media Awards (RIMA), which will take place at the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair this evening.
Sir Trevor said: “Until very recently most people’s idea of what a black or Asian or Chinese or Gypsy person is really like is almost entirely based on what they read, hear and see in the media and have been very stereotyped.
“But so called ‘reality TV’ has given many British people a chance to encounter people from other ethnic groups they would never meet in their own everyday lives.”
Sir Trevor said that, in the current Big Brother house, people such as bisexual Muslim Kemal, posh Conservative black man Derek and feminist Zimbabwean nurse Makosi, were “three people who would confound any possible stereotyping”.
The CRE chairman also said that, according to Big Brother producer Peter Bazalgette, voters were “completely uninfluenced” by issues of race and ethnicity when it came to deciding which of the show’s contestants to vote off.
Sire Trevor said: “Take ‘The Apprentice’ where the final four contestants all came from immigrant backgrounds. The winner, Tim Campbell, in spite of being a black man, who grew up with a single parent – turned up to work on time and was, at last, someone who wasn’t a one dimensional “bad ways” black man.”
Sir Trevor added: “Reality TV has also shown that non-white folks can be just as individualistic as anyone else. We can defy our own historical stereotypes. Young British people are increasingly demonstrating that they can respect the culture of their parents without having to adopt it wholesale. For example, who would ever dare to ask British Asian women to be sweet, submissive and silent after watching The Apprentice’s Saira Khan in action?”
The RIMA awards, which cover 16 categories including television, radio, print, film and new media, are awarded to those regarded by independent judges has having made a significant contribution to public appreciation and understanding of multiculturalism, diversity or race relations.
The shortlist for RIMA media personality of the year includes Private Johnson Beharry, the solider who became the first recipient of the Victoria Cross in over 20 years, in April; Double Olympic gold medal winner Dame Kelly Holmes; and Arsenal footballer and French international Thierry Henry.
(KMcA/SP)
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