Tag Archives: Ofcom

Another Big Brother, Another Racism Row


Barely a week into the new series of Big Brother, the show has shot into the headlines again (and pulled in an extra million viewers) thanks to Emily, one of the contestants using “the N-Word� during a conversation with fellow contestants Charley and Nicky.

Thanks in no small part to the Shilpa Shetty controversy earlier in the year, although I suspect in part driven by the fact that at 3am Charley and Nicky were still discussing the incident – more concerned that Emily would be punished it seems – the producers took the decision to eject Emily and woke her up and removed her from the house in the early hours of Thursday morning.

There are a number of interesting observations about what has happened. Firstly Narinder, a housemate from Big Brother 2 is currently writing a book about the series interviewing former housemates about their experiences. She appeared this morning on BBC Breakfast to discuss this incident and said that every previous housemate from a racial minority, including herself, have had some sort of incident, but the majority have not been shown. She even highlighted that as part of the fight that occurred during Big Brother 5 that eventually required security guards to enter the house Emma used the same word as an insult towards Victor.

Her opinion was both that Channel 4 was both right to show the incident in full, and that they were right to eject Emily as a result, more-so having seen the incident on the highlights show. I think what is most shocking about what happens is that Emily really doesn’t understand quite how offensive the word is. When Nicky asks her where she is from (Bristol), Emily says that she and her friends use it all the time. Nicky, who was brought up in Watford says that the word would never be used where she came from. Emily also tries to justify it by stating that the word is used in many songs – which it is. Also worth considering is that Nicky is about ten years older than Emily. Whether it is something regional, or to do with the people Emily knows, or whether the use of the term in music has resulted in some groups not understanding the offence caused by the term I don’t know. Suffice to say that by not just editing it out this time, Channel 4 has certainly highlighted that the use of the word is offensive.

Having said that, whilst Emily has been ejected because her use of a word would be offensive to the viewing public, the Times BB Blog highlighted that people have expressed possibly offensive views without using offensive language. Certainly if they disciplined anyone who expressed an opinion that was either naive or offensive to one group in the same way as Emily was disciplined then there wouldn’t be many contestants left. However the question is what impression does that give to people watching about the relative importance of words as opposed to beliefs?

The Plague of Nuisance Calls

Thanks to a combination of Anonymous Call Rejection and the Telephone Preference Service we’ve remained relatively free of nuisance sales calls. Unfortunately recently the numbers have picked up, firstly regular calls from 0800 183 0142 – many of which are silent, and also quite frequent international calls.

Taking them in reverse, the international calls are a total pain, as they bypass the Anonymous Call Rejection, as international calls don’t have an attached Caller ID details. It is also a pain as we quite legitimately get international calls from friends and family abroad. Having said that, as I mentioned a while back we’ve used Vonage to set up a Medicine Hat phone number, which since it is located in Canada, does get Canadian Caller ID, and even better passes this through when it rings in the UK, so this does mean that we can distinguish between the persistent foreign call centres, and legitimate calls.

The calls from 0800 183 0142 are somewhat more annoying though. The company making the calls RHL Ltd, who run call centres for a number of well known names including Sky, is as far as I am concerned complying with the letter of the Ofcom rules, but not the spirit. They are obliged to offer the freephone number, however, whenever we’ve had a silent call, we’ve dialled back the number, and it just connects to a recorded message apologising for the call, and says that there is nobody available to take the call. However this proves to be a bit of a lie. A little bit of digging on the internet turned up this discussion, which gives another phone number, 0141 272 1105, which was answered immediately – despite the message on the 0800 183 0142 number – and the person I spoke wasn’t in the least surprised when I asked for our number to be removed either. He took our details and the phone number to be removed, and assured us that the number would be removed from the automatic dialler within 24 hours.

The fact is that they are paid to sell, and whatever rubbish the Telemarketing industry may spout, I have yet to meet anybody who actually wants this cold calling – indeed with upwards of 48% of UK land line phone numbers now ex-directory it seems increasingly that we value our privacy on our home phone. If it were easy for people to remove themselves from the list, I imagine they’d have nobody to call, so whilst once you get through they are polite, they don’t make it quite as easy as it could be.

Ultimately what I want on my land line now is a feature I have on my mobile, whereby I can white list numbers – only the numbers I specify can get through, and everybody else has to leave a message. Unfortunately that seems to be a bit of a pipe dream, and it may require some more investigation of the VoIP options before I can get something like that working.

Update: Phoning the Glasgow number (0141 272 1105) rather than the 0800 183 0142 number that RHL put out as their Caller ID number has proved to have sorted the problem for now. We’ve had no more calls from that number. The international calls have also subsided – whether that was as a result of the call to RHL or just coincidence I don’t know. Having said that we have now picked up a cordless phone with built in Caller ID which allows us to not even answer the calls when they ring – even better we can just hit the hang up button and it cuts them straight off without us having to sit through the ringing – phone starts ringing, it’s an international or obvious sales number and we can hang up on them immediately. Lovely. 😀