Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Culture Clash, it's tonight at 8.30

Watch it on 18 Doughty Street talk TV

A media discussion about what is or isn’t racism, who should rightly be accused of it, and what, if anything, should be done about it, has dominated the news agenda over the past few weeks. The issue briefly broke out of the domestic arena last week when the events on Channel 4’s Big Brother threatened, surreally, to become an international diplomatic incident, before settling down into the perhaps more parochial issue of the future of the board at Channel 4.

During the furore, which seemed to take on an increasingly hysterical tone, the broadcaster Janet Street Porter had to answer accusations of racism by a neighbour, and while all this was going on Simone Clarke, the so-called BNP ballerina, continued to dance away at the English National Ballet. And just yesterday, Channel 4 was again faced with a possible racism problem after complaints were made about comments made on one of its other reality shows, Shipwrecked.

Should Channel 4 axe Big Brother? Or is it, as its apologists would claim, actually performing a public service? Perhaps, as somebody once said, human beings cannot stand too much reality. Or has the cry of racist – always a way of simply closing down debate in the political arena – now become something to be so feared that it can sweep away all reason? Should Jade Goody be systematically destroyed? Or are we in the middle of a McCarthyite type of witch-hunt?

Here to talk about these questions today are Michael Attwell, who has been a commissioning editor at the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel Five, Damian Thompson, leader writer for the Telegraph and editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, Marc Sidwell of the Henry Jackson Society and columnist Clive Davis.

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