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U.K. broadcaster ITV and performers in “Britain’s Got Talent” pushed back against a clear message thousands of viewers sent over a recent Black Lives Matter-inspired routine.
The show was reportedly flooded with thousands of complaints earlier this month after a group of former winners presented a dance routine that was apparently inspired by the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite the negative reactions, ITV, where “Britain’s Got Talent” airs and others defended the performance and its message.
The episode which aired on Sept. 5, featured a dance performance by the troupe Diversity in which lead dancer Ashley Banjo was lying on the floor as a fellow dancer dressed as a police officer pressed a knee to his neck and handcuffed him. Other dancers gathered holding phones as if recording the “arrest.”
“What we thought we knew, some clearly didn’t. Black Lives Matter,” a narrator said during the routine which began with the dancers taking a knee ahead of the song “Black Lives Matter,” by Dax.
(Source: Britain’s Got Talent/YouTube)
Viewers appalled by the political nature of the performance during a family entertainment show let it be known they were not happy. More than 20,000 complaints have poured in following the show’s airing, with thousands being lodged within hours and days of its first air, according to Variety.
— Politicalite UK (@politicalite) September 15, 2020
Banjo tweeted his thanks to supporters – and even to critics, noting that their negative reactions “highlight exactly what needs to change.”
So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk. Thousands of messages of Love and support – Thank you 🖤 For the thousands of messages of hate and ignorance – Thank you. You highlight exactly what needs to change. Sending nothing but love to you all 🙏🏽🇬🇧 #Diversity pic.twitter.com/3kP0ymUj88
— Ashley Banjo (@AshleyBanjo) September 6, 2020
The dancer, who won the show in 2009 and is filling in as a temporary judge in the absence of Simon Cowell, later revealed that he has been subjected to “everything from racial abuse to threats to just some really nasty stuff that I’m not going to give any more time than it deserves.”
“A lot of the negativity, the nastiness and the racism shows exactly why this performance was needed and why this conversation that is now risen is necessary,” he said in an Instagram video. “Racism is very real. I knew it before and I definitely know it now.”
View this post on Instagram
Describing it as “our summary of 2020,” Banjo addressed the part of the routine that sparked a flood of reactions.
“The bit that was really seemed to connect with people and agitate, annoy and offend people was the fact that we stood up and said that racism is real and as far as we’re concerned it has to change so that we’re tolerant because Black Lives Matter,” he said. “Now, a lot of people were offended at the political nature of that statement, but that’s never what we intended, black lives mattered long before it was anything political or affiliated with one set of people with a statement.”
Banjo continued to dismiss the negative comments in tweets focusing on the positive.
— Ashley Banjo (@AshleyBanjo) September 15, 2020
U.K. media regulator Ofcom, which received the thousands of complaints from viewers, is reportedly considering whether or not to launch an investigation into the routine, according to Variety. The performance is on its way to becoming “the most protested TV moment of the decade,” according to Daily Mail.
Judge Alesha Dixon squelched rumors that she was threatening to leave the show if the producers ended up apologizing.
For the record I never threatened to quit BGT, I’ve had no conversations with ITV regarding this matter and Katie Hind made up this story, I do however stand by and support @AshleyBanjo and Diversity. #IamNotYourMediaPuppet
— Alesha Dixon (@AleshaOfficial) September 13, 2020
ITV stood behind Diversity’s performance, and got a mix of praise and condemnation.
“‘Britain’s Got Talent’ has always been an inclusive show, which showcases diversity and supports strong storytelling in all forms and ITV stands behind the decision to broadcast Diversity’s performance on ‘BGT,’” a spokesman told Variety.
“Ashley and the group are a great example of the talent, creativity and diversity of modern Britain and their performance was an authentic, heartfelt response to many of the issues and events which have affected society in 2020,” the spokesperson added.
@ITV your decision about Britain’s Got Talent and Diversity’s performance is totally outrageous. Hang your head in shame, if it was a white group doing this performance you would have slated it and banned them from doing it again. But because they are black your are ignoring it.
— Gerry Lee Gwynn (@GerryGwynn) September 15, 2020
Many Twitter users made their point about the inappropriateness of the routine on the talent show.
Repeat what I said before .. re-enacting the wrongful death of a violent criminal on a family programme is not appropriate. Why not show a dance that brings unity and positivity but still highlights their cause .
— Ellie T (@longman_elisa) September 16, 2020
It’s one thing for Ashley Banjo, who I was a once a fan of, and Alesha Dixon, who I also thought was a super person, to have their views. But their arrogance to the public who complained about using a TV show for a BLM political broadcast, is quite another. I quit the fan club.
— terry manners (@TelBabe) September 15, 2020
What rankles most is the TV company allowed it. Whether you think its right or wrong, there is no place on family shows for political stunts. We have enough drivel from msm without it being aired on this.
— Drum (@drumwallace) September 16, 2020
Perhaps they could do a dance routine in memory of 5 year old Cannon Hinnant. After all, diversity were children when they started. Unlike him they were able to grow up and become successful adults
— Jeremy Pugh (@jpg1962) September 16, 2020
And if enough people quit watching BGT they will pay the price of arrogant woke stupidity
— tony (@tonynic49910876) September 15, 2020
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