Heineken outrages parties other beers don't

 

DUTCH brewer Heineken has plunged into a racism row after a senior executive said a television show it was sponsoring had too many "negroes" on it.

Heineken, which owns the Murphy Brewery in Cork, has apologised to anti racist campaigners but one leading black newspaper in Britain said the brewery executive should be sacked and £1 million sterling paid to African charities. The show in question, Hotel Babylon, which is made by Mr Bob Geldofs Planet 24 company, began a 52 week run on UIV last night.

After viewing a pilot of the news and youth culture show, Mr Justus Kos, an executive in Heineken's sponsorship department faxed a letter to Planet 24, which also makes The Big Breakfast, outlining Heineken's thoughts on the show. More "evidence of beer" was needed and "there was too high a proportion of negroes in the audience.

News of the fax's contents has prompted an angry reaction from the black Labour MP, Mr Bernie Grant. "We would hope that TV programmes would seek to represent a positive image of black people and seek to create change in a racist Europe," Mr Grant said.

"At a time when more and more programmes are being sponsored by multi national companies there must be concern about the amount of pressure they can put on programme makers," he added.

Heineken chief executive Mr Karel Vuursteen has apologised to Mr Grant. "It should never have been written. I am truly shocked about the content ... since it is totally against everything Heineken stands for," he said in a letter to the MP. "Heineken denounces all discrimination and will live up to that. I hope you can accept my sincere apology and I can assure you proper steps will be taken to prevent reoccurrence."

Asked about the future of Mr Kos, Mr Vuursteen said that proper measures would be taken to prevent recurrence "but it is an internal matter".