Why did Shilpa Shetty row evoke such a reaction?

The racial bullying of Bollywood siren Shilpa Shetty at the hands of Jane Goody and her artless associates on Big Brother drew sharp reactions in India. There were angry street demonstrations in Patna. Union ministers were quick to register their protest. And when Britain’s prime minister to be, Gordon Brown, visited Bangalore, the story surfaced on the front pages of two British newspapers.

But why was the reaction more vehement in India, where the programme wasn’t aired and the channel isn’t seen, than in Britain? Perhaps in a global media environment that is not surprising. But Suzanne Franks argues in the latest issue of the British Journalism Review that it could also partly have to do with our mutual history.

“[The] habit was formed long before the availability of instant communication and shared global exchanges. BBC written archives include a wide range of confidential documents that reveal how much India and Indians have always cared about their media image abroad and particularly in the UK. They have been quick to react and protest even when no one in India had any prospect of viewing or hearing the item that was causing offence.

“Street demonstrations, ministerial interventions, parliamentary questions and threats of expulsion were all standard reactions, even to programmes and reports that were simply rumoured to be unduly critical of India and Indians.”

Reads the full article here: India’s angst: it’s access all areas

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