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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 05:20 GMT
Shetty speaks of Brother 'racism'
Shilpa Shetty
Shetty, 31, is an award-winning Bollywood actress

Celebrity Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty has spoken for the first time of her fears she is a victim of racism.

After a row over stock cubes, the actress was comforted by fellow housemate Cleo Rocos who said: "I don't think there's anything racist in it."

But Shetty said: "It is, I'm telling you." Channel 4 has insisted there has been "no overt racial abuse".

Chancellor Gordon Brown, on a visit to India, condemned anything that went against British "tolerance".

Channel 4 and TV regulator Ofcom have had more than 21,000 complaints about the treatment of Shetty.

Housemate Danielle Lloyd said she thought the actress should go home, a statement she later said that she regretted.

Channel 4 said: "To date there has been no overt racial abuse or racist behaviour directed against Shilpa Shetty within the Big Brother house.

"However there has undoubtedly been a cultural and class clash between her and three of the British females in the house."

The statement added that housemates had constant access to support from Big Brother, and Shetty had "not voiced any concerns of racial abuse".

Condemnation

Ofcom said it had received about 19,300 complaints about Celebrity Big Brother - a record for a television broadcast. A further 2,000 have been made directly to Channel 4.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think the whole thing has been blown completely out of proportion
Donna, Essex

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.

The force said it had also forwarded about 40 complaints to Channel 4.

A spokesperson also confirmed they will investigate allegations of racism with a view to taking action, and added that the force has experience of examining and resolving incidents in the Big Brother house.

The story featured on the front pages of several Indian newspapers on Wednesday, and a small-scale protest in the eastern Indian city of Patna saw the burning of an effigy.

Mr Brown said that the issue had been raised repeatedly during his trip to the country, adding: "I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Diplomats here in India say the row is damaging Britain's reputation
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

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

Amid the row, 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.

Leo Sayer
The only way there is going to be peace in the house is for everybody to show each other some respect
Leo Sayer
Bookmaker William Hill made Shetty favourite to win the series, at odds of 6/4.

"She has stuck in there and if she now picks up the public sympathy vote, punters certainly believe she will be very hard to beat," it said.

Housemates Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara have been seen making fun of 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.

'Absolutely absurd'

Leo Sayer, who left the house last week, said the alleged bullies were "all being very stupid, but I think basically they are good people".

"I wouldn't put them down as nasty people," the singer told Capital Radio.

O'Meara was defended by her former S Club 7 band mate Bradley McIntosh, who said: "she's not racist".

But he admitted he was "kind of disappointed" in the singer, since she had once been the victim of bullying herself.

"Some of the things she's said, I've just thought: 'Oh my God, what have you said that for?'"

Shilpa Shetty
Shetty, 31, is an award-winning Bollywood actress
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."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Shilpa Shetty on her treatment by other housemates



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