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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 17:53 GMT
Switch off Big Brother - Cameron
David Cameron in India
Mr Cameron, who visited India last year, said he abhorred racism
Viewers unhappy at alleged racist content on Celebrity Big Brother should switch off their TVs, Conservative leader David Cameron has said.

Answering questions sent in to the BBC he said there was "a great regulator called the off button", adding that people had to "take responsibility".

All racism was "distasteful" and had to be opposed, Mr Cameron added.

Channel 4's show has prompted more than 20,000 complaints over the treatment of Indian actress Shilpa Shetty.

'Abhor racism'

Housemates Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara have been accused of bullying Miss Shetty.

In India, the story has been front page news, the government has pledged to take "appropriate measures" and protesters have burned an effigy of programme makers on the streets.

Mr Cameron, answering questions e-mailed to the BBC News website, said: "I completely abhor racism. Everyone has got a responsibility here."

I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn
Gordon Brown

He included Channel 4 and the broadcasting regulator Ofcom in this category, adding: "There's a great regulator called the off button and I think we should use it."

His comments came as the furore appeared to have boosted viewing figures for the programme.

The main highlights show on Tuesday averaged 4.5 million viewers, up from 3.5 million on Monday and 3.9 million on Tuesday last week.

The Tory leader said he had not seen the incidents which prompted the complaints, but added: "From what I read it sounds very distasteful."

Earlier, Chancellor Gordon Brown, visiting India, said the UK should be "seen as a country of fairness and tolerance".

'Feel ashamed'

"I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn."

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons he had not seen the show, but said: "We should oppose racism in all its forms."

Ed Balls, the economic secretary to the Treasury, told the BBC: "The thing which I think we should stand back and think about, in the last couple of days this has been a major national news story in India, with people talking about Britain with words like 'racist' and the kind of image it projects of Britain around the world is appalling. I feel ashamed of it."

Labour MP and former Europe minister Keith Vaz has raised the issue of alleged racism on Big Brother in an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons.

He called on Channel 4 bosses to take "effective action" against "unacceptable" language.

Ms Shetty's family issued a statement saying they were "overwhelmed by the outpouring of public support for Shilpa not just in India, but from across the globe".


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