BBC programme makers have once again come under fire for fictional portrayals of ethnic minorities after a survey of Asian viewers revealed strong criticism of EastEnders in particular.
A poll of 1,000 young professionals claimed the soap’s Asian family, the Ferreiras, provided an unrealistic and poorly researched portrayal of Asian life in the UK.
Compiled by Rehna Azim, a barrister and editor of online site www.britainsasianassets.com, the questionnaires found that British Asians are highly sceptical of the way they are depicted on screen, with the Ferreira family coming in for particular criticism.
One participant said: “The Ferreiras? Unbelievable characters, negative storylines, totally unrealistic.” Another added: “The storylines are stupid, unrealistic and dull.”
The five-strong Ferreira family were the first Asians to move into Walford since characters Gita and Sanjay Kapoor left in 1998. However, their arrival has been slated by the majority of the young British Asians interviewed by Azim, who accused producers of “lazy casting”.
Azim explained that some of the children’s names are Hindu and others Muslim. She added that the surname Ferreira is from Catholic, Portuguese-speaking Goa.
“The BBC should either do their research properly or get good Asian writers in. The storylines are just unrealistic, even apart from the fact that the family is a hotchpotch.”
Compounding the problems, Bollywood actor Dalip Tahil, who played patriarch Dan Ferreira, was deported earlier this year for failing to secure the correct work permit, forcing producers to re-write storylines.
This is, however, the first time the Asian community has spoken out against the characters.
A member of Equity’s Afro Asian Oriental Caribbean committee commented: “Obviously it is important that the BBC’s flagship soap has an Asian presence but it is very disappointing that they fail to portray them in a believable light. Why doesn’t the BBC employ Asian talent to write the storylines?”
Last year the Corporation was widely criticised by Afro-Caribbean performers for the quality of its black sitcom The Crouches, with members of the cast among the complainants.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “In picking the actors, our main priority was that we got the chemistry right. We did suffer when Dan Ferreira had to be removed unexpectedly and lessons have been learnt. However, the family are not being written out and are going to have more of a good time in the future.”
The BBC added that the disparity in the children’s names could be explained by the fact that their parents hail from different backgrounds.