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Reality show contestants pay a real-world price: On 'Big Brother,' racial and gay slurs abound

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The New York Times
|
July 8, 2013

In the summer of 2000, when CBS first locked people in a fishbowl of a house and televised almost every second of their lives, there was a spate of bad press when a newspaper discovered that a participant had ties to the New Black Panther Party. The network quickly issued a statement that said it “will not tolerate nor permit any hate speech on the program,” called “Big Brother.”

Since then, reality has intruded. This summer, in the show’s 15th iteration, several participants have been overheard making racist, sexist and homophobic comments about others in the house, and in the process they have reignited the oldest debate in reality television: whether the show’s producers are appropriately and fairly depicting real life in their quest to provoke and entertain viewers.

The slurs were shown on the Internet (where paying subscribers watch live feeds from the house around the clock — “See what we can’t show you on TV,” the CBS Web site says) but were not immediately on the television version of the show, whose producers distill the action into three hourly episodes each week. This troubled some loyal followers of “Big Brother,” because television viewers were seeing an incomplete picture of the participants. On a show with a $500,000 grand prize, perceptions and reputations are important.

"As we've seen time and again, the racist, sexist, and homophobic words someone chooses to say can have lasting consequences, and the swell of public anger being directed at these Big Brother contestants shows that the American public finds this type of hateful, bigoted language unacceptable." - Rich Ferraro, GLAAD spokesperson

http://www.glaad.org/blog/after-criticism-cbs-big-brother-incorporates-a...