The head of the Commission for Racial Equality has said reality TV has done more for racial understanding than any other media creation in recent years.
Trevor Phillips said reality TV had had a "positive" effect
Trevor Phillips told the BBC only one in five UK adults counted someone of another ethnic group as a friend.
He said shows like Big Brother gave people a more varied view of what Asian and black people could be like.
"It's introduced the majority of the British public to people they never normally would meet," Mr Phillips said.
"For most people, their experience of black or Asian or Chinese people is what they see or hear or read in the media, and historically, black and Asian people in the media have been rather one-dimensional stereotypes."
Mr Phillips is due to discuss reality television at the Commission for Racial Equality's (CRE) Race In The Media awards presentation.
He told BBC Radio Four's Today reality television showed "that someone who is black or Asian isn't just one kind of person.
"Going back to The Apprentice, Saira Khan - who would ever say Asian women are sweet, submissive and silent after watching her in action?
"So I think it's had a positive effect."
Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast, he said reality television had shown their audiences that racial minorities were "just people".
"In the past, black and Asian people tended to have been on television because we're exceptional - exceptionally talented, exceptionally brave, or exceptionally stupid or exceptionally criminal.
"What reality television has done is introduced, I think, most of the population to people from minority communities who are just that - they're people.
"You don't have to like it or think that it's the most wonderful kind of television to accept that actually it is serving a purpose."
Big Brother contestants
Former Big Brother contestant Narinder Kaur told the programme being the first Asian woman on the show was about more than just entertainment.
"I think it changed the way people thought of Asian women, it wasn't just as submissive or strict upbringing, arranged marriages - I brought another angle to it."
Darren Ramsey from the first Big Brother show said that, to begin with, people had claimed he was the "token black man in the house" - but their perceptions had changed after the show.
"I thought, well, have I changed that? And they were like 'yeah you're Darren, you're a really nice loving guy' - a black guy - who's not stupid, who's a little bit intelligent and so forth."