Should The BBC Cancel The Apprentice Over Race Row?

Allegations of racism have dogged the show, but given that it's prerecorded is there anything the BBC can do other than cancel it?

Should The BBC Cancel The Apprentice Over Race Row?

by Rebecca Reid |

Last week we wrote about how Lottie Lion, Apprentice contestant, presents an interesting quandary for modern feminism. The following day it was alleged that she had been sending racially insensitive WhatsApps to other members of the competition, adding to the general perception that The Apprentice, a show which has exclusively booted off people of colour thus far, has a race problem.

The BBC has said that they condemn Lion’s comments. But she hasn’t been removed from the show, which is what you’d generally expect to happen if the BBC do actually condemn Lion’s actions.

The problem is, the show was recorded over the summer. Every episode, except for the finale, is already edited and sitting on a hard drive somewhere in the television centre waiting to be broadcast.

We all know that racism, even micro-aggressions, are wrong. And people who say horrible things shouldn’t be held up in the public eye and given a chance to thrive, because that’s why Katie Hopkins exists. But when a show has already been recorded, the production company and the BBC are left with a complicated problem.

The only option would be to attempt to re-edit all of the episodes that have already been made, or to cancel the rest of the show.

There are probably people who feel that given her behaviour, Lion shouldn’t be on television, and that if that means cancelling the rest of the series of The Apprentice then it’s a price worth paying. On one hand it would be a logistical nightmare and very unfair to the rest of the cast who gave up their summer to live in a house in North London away from their partners and their kids in an attempt to launch themselves into public consciousness. But on the other hand, can the BBC really claim the condemn Lottie’s comments if it is continuing to give her a platform on the show?

In 2019, when people (especially reality stars) are regularly held to account for their toxic online behaviour, shouldn’t production companies and broadcasters have a plan for how to handle things if a contestant does something objectionable after they have finished recording the show?

There have been previous examples of TV shows reshooting after contestant behaviour came to light. Back in 2011, there was a series of America’s Next Top Model titled ‘All Stars’ in which women from previous series were brought back to compete for a supertitle. Initially the win (which came with $100,000) went to a contestant named Angelea Preston. But in an extremely dramatic finale we found out that she had been stripped of her win, the finale reshot and Lisa D’Amato was given the prize. There was a resounding silence about what had caused the reshoot, during which time the main theories were that Preston was a sex worker, that she was pregnant or that she had broken the rules by annoucing her win on social media. Eventually Preston [sued the ANTM producers,]( claiming that they knew she had been a sex worker before she entered the competition.

Obviously it’s grim to think that you could be stripped of your accolade for having previously done sex work. But when it comes to contestants who have done something wrong, do producers have a responsibility to reshoot the entire show? Do broadcasters need to yank it from rotation? Because while co-operations talk a good game about diversity and inclusion and political correctness, it seems unlikely that those sentiments would extend to the enormous bill for finding a new Wednesday-night-at-9pm TV show.

Lion herself claims that the messages were not racist, that they have been taken out of context and that she would ‘never’ say anything racially aggressive. It’s impossible to make a definitive judgement about whether or not that’s true without seeing the full conversation. But (and it pains me to say this, as an Apprentice super fan) if Lion was being intentionally racist towards another contestant, surely that’s an argument to remove her from the spotlight, even if that means truncating the series at episode five?


The Apprentice contestants 2019

Carina Lepore
1 of 16

30-year-old Carina owns an artisan bakery. She's from South London and believes she has what it takes to be Lord Sugar's next business partner, as "it's written in the stars". Carina also credits herself as a natural leader.

Iasha Masood
2 of 16

Isasha, 27, is an account from Manchester, who says she is a "fierce businesswoman with sass and class". She thinks her fellow competitors will underestimate her, but will be shocked by her "controversial" and "eccentric" personality.

Jemelin Artigas
3 of 16

34-year-old network marketing consultant Jemelin likes things to be done her way and has revealed she is "next-level stubborn". Jemelin says she "never has problems, I only have solutions".

Lottie Lion
4 of 16

Lottie is 19 and from Somerset. She is a librarian, who is "very cut-throat". Lottie believes she will bring class to the competition, shocking her fellow contestants.

Lubna Farhan
5 of 16

Luton born Lubna is a 33-year-old finance manager and mother of two. She believes her rise from a "council estate" shows how she has made herself into "something good". Lubna credits herself as someone with "the whole package".

Scarlett Allen-Horton
6 of 16

32-year-old Scarlett, from the West Midlands, owns a recuritment company and believes her "upbeat personality" is her best asset in helping her win the competition. In her words, she's "been the highest performer across every workplace I have worked in."

Pamela Laird
7 of 16

Pamela, 30, from South London, owns a beauty brand. She says she is fiesty and passionate, crediting her "entrepreneurial gene" as her reason for success.

Marianne Rawlins
8 of 16

Marianne, 36, is from Lincolnshire and owns a risk management company. Moving to the UK in 2017 from the US, she says she has no filter and is the "epitome" of 'don't judge a book by its cover', but has said she needs to tone down her "American-ness."

Dean Ahmad
9 of 16

20-year-old Dean is from Essex, who believes he's got the "gift of the gab". He owns a Sports Management Agency, a company which he founded aged 15. Dean says he can "persuade anyone to do anything."

Kenna Ngoma
10 of 16

Kenna, 24, is from Greater Manchester and owns an alcohol-infused ice cream company. He says he has an "infectious personality" and used to play professionally for Manchester City before he got injured.

Riyonn Farsad
11 of 16

Riyonn is a 30-year-old events manager from South London. He says he has never come across anyone that doesn't like him.

Lewis Ellis
12 of 16

Lewis, 28, is from Lancashire and is a digital marketing project manager. He is a "maverick" who doesn't follow the rules. Lewis says he's very confident, which is sometimes viewed as arrogance. However, he doesn't think he's "better than anyone else."

Ryan-Mark Parsons
13 of 16

Ryan-Mark, 19, is the youngest contestant this year. Yet, he believes age is irrelevant when business is being discussed. Ryan-Mark describes himself as the "epitome of luxury."

Shahin Hassan
14 of 16

Birmingham born Shahin says he is "ruthless in the pursuit of success", crediting Elon Musk as one of his role models. The 36-year-old says his best quality is "thinking outside of the box."

Thomas Skinner
15 of 16

Thomas, 28, is from East London and owns a pillow company. He started working aged 12 doing a paper round and moved to working on the markets aged 16. Thomas says he is a "chancer", but it works in his favour.

Souleyman Bah
16 of 16

20-year-old Souleyman is a para athlete and motivational speaker. He trains with the GB Paralympic Olympic Team as a sprinter. Souleyman says he is going to be extremely honest and will fight for his place in the competition.

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