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Ofcom gets 17 complaints about Celeb BB censorship

LONDON - As audience numbers fall sharply, broadcast watchdog Ofcom is to investigate a number of complaints it has received about the alleged censorship of practising Muslim contestant Jermaine Jackson's five-times daily prayers on Channel 4's 'Celebrity Big Brother'.

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Ofcom told Brand Republic it had received the 17 complaints about 'Celebrity Big Brother' some of which relate to the alleged censorship of Jackson, a former member of The Jackson Five, praying on Channel 4's 'Celebrity Big Brother' but the exact details of the complaints are not known.

Channel 4 has rebutted suggestions that it has censored footage of Jermaine Jackson praying. In a statement to Brand Republic it said: "Neither Channel 4 nor Brighter Pictures [Endemol] have any policy or intention to prevent the broadcast of Jermaine praying in the 'Big Brother' house. Material featuring him praying has been broadcast so far this series."

However, an anonymous poster on the Gordon's Republic blog claimed that Channel 4 censored any footage of the former popstar practising his faith.

"Outraged Muslims have begun to complain on grounds of fair representation as Shilpa Shetty was broadcast practicing yoga, they are demanding an explanation from Channel 4 as to why Jermaine praying has been censored. Complaints to Ofcom the body that adjudicates media complaints are set to flood in this Monday. Jermaine has begun to attract many thousands of Muslim votes," the unnamed commenter wrote.

The Ofcom Broadcast Code states programme makers must "exercise the proper degree of responsibility with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes".

Under rule 2.3 of the code, which covers harm and offence, broadcasters must not discriminate on the grounds of race, religion or beliefs. Finally, under rule 7.1, which covers fairness, broadcasters "must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes".

Ofcom said it could not make any further comment on the complaints because the case was being looked into.

News of the possible investigation came after ratings for 'Celebrity Big Brother' dropped by more than half since the introduction of Jade Goody, her boyfriend and mother. The launch last Wednesday had an average of 7.1m viewers, but by Sunday night the audience had fallen to 3.2m after two contestants walked out.

Donny Tourette and Ken Russell quit the show, with Tourette refusing to be a servant to Jade while Russell departed after an argument with the former 'Big Brother' contestant.

Channel 4 hastily abandoned the "master and servant" task yesterday and the celebrities returned to the main house after successfully completing it and winning a luxury shopping budget.

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