Ashely Banjo shared a defiant message supporting change ahead of his eagerly anticipated Britain’s Got Talent return this everning.
The Diversity star, 31, will return to his post on the judging panel after fielding of a barrage of abuse from some viewers over a controversial performance from his dance troupe.
Earlier this month, Ashley led the stars of Diversity in a dramatic retelling of some of the biggest news events of the year – including the killing of George Floyd – for a routine aired on the first BGT semi-final on September 5.
Since then, the episode has received more than 24,000 complaints to regulator Ofcom and is on the way to becoming the most protested TV event of the decade.
Not to be beaten down by the mounting complaints or by what he has called ‘racist’ abuse on social media, Banjo took to Instagram hours before his live TV return to share an important message.
Alongside a shot of himself taking the knee in the routine in the dance – as a homage to the Black Lives Matter movement – Ashley penned: “This is what change looks like.”
“Thank you again to everyone that has supported us. #Diversity ”
The black and white picture, which has been printed in papers up and down the country today, carried the slogan: “We are changed by what we see. Just as we are changed when we are seen.”
Underneath was written: “ITV stands by Diversity.”
The move doubles down on the statement released from ITV earlier this week where the broadcaster positioned themselves on Diversity’s defence despite viewer complaints soaring above 20k and a drop in ratings following the performance.
Former BGT winners Diversity were caught up in a media storm after their Black Lives Matter inspired routine on the talent show poloarised viwers.
The performance included a moment where a white police officer appeared to kneel on Banjo’s neck while his fellow dancers took pictures, as a reference to the killing of George Flloyd in America in May.
Ashley said that while he had received some criticism for the performance online, the hate was nothing compared to the positive reviews he’d been sent.
He also claimed that the backlash showed him how much the conversation he and his Diversity pals sparked needed to be had.
ITV also backed the stand-in judge and his troupe, saying BGT had always been a show that supports diversity and inclusivity.
An ITV spokesman: “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.
“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.”
Despite the complaints almost surpassing Ofcom’s most complained about TV event, the watchdog have said they will not be investigating the performance as it does not breach guidelines.
1. Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 5 – 25,327 complaints
Roxanne Pallett sparked national outrage in 2018 when she accused fellow ex soap star Ryan Thomas of deliberately punching her..
The scandal – dubbed ‘punch-gate’ – infuriated viewers who witnessed Roxanne grossly exaggerate her play fight with Ryan before she was removed.
The former Emmerdale actress said she left the house feeling like ‘the most hated women in Britain’ before apologising to Ryan for the upset caused.
2. Britain’s Got Talent, ITV – 24,500 complaints
A dance performance by former BGT winners Diversity has become the latest TV event to hit the record books for all the wrong reaons.
The provocative routine retold a number of major news events from 2020, including the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, instantly polarised viewers with some accusing the family show of becoming ‘too political’.
ITV has stood by the decision to broadcast the routine with choreographer Ashley Banjo assuring fans that the positive comments he’s received far outweigh the bad.
3. Loose Women, ITV – 8,002 complaints
The daytime talk show was embroiled in scandal in 2018 over an ugly spat between guest Kim Woodburn and panelist Coleen Nolan that exploded live on air.
The two women had a long history of feuding and their meeting on the show was billed as the chance to settle their differences in front of viewers.
However, the stunt spectacularly backfired when a war of words quickly escalated and culminated in a highly emotional Kim calling Coleen ‘trash’ before storming off stage.
4. UKIP: The First 100 Days, Channel 4 – 6,187 complaints
The one-off mockumentary imagined what the world would be like if UKIP rose to power and won the General Election told from the perspective of a fictional Asian MP.
More than 6,000 viewers complained to Ofcom accusing the show of provoking electoral bias.
The Guardian reported that a ‘significant number’ of these were just a copy and paste job organised by far right group Britain First.
5. Sky News – 3,463 complaints
An interview with Tommy Robinson received thousands of complaints in 2018 with supporters of the right-wing activist complaining that he had been defamed by the channel and accused them of showing political bias.
In the chat, Robinson discussed being found guilty of contempt of court and his attitudes towards Muslims and Islam.
As it was broadcast, the interview was headlined: Tommy Robinson: I don’t care if I incite fear of Muslims.”
Robinson later called the interview ‘disgusting’ on his Facebook page prompting his followers to complain to the regulator.
Ofcom later ruled they were not investigate the alleged bias.
The ruling on the website stated: “Ofcom received approximately 24,500 complaints about the above programme. Complainants outlined a range of concerns about Diversity’s performance, including that the themes of violence and racism were inappropriate for family viewing, that it expressed support for the political organisation ‘Black Lives Matter’ and that it was racist towards White people.
“Ofcom also received a number of messages of support and praise for the performance. Ofcom has assessed this programme against the relevant rules in the Broadcasting Code (“the Code”).
“Our assessment is that this programme did not raise any issues which warranted investigation. In our view, Diversity’s performance was an artistic expression of topical social issues and did not contain any content which was racist, unsuitably violent or otherwise inappropriate in the context of this programme.
“Given the significant publicity surrounding this case and the high volume of complaints received, we have decided to publish our reasons for this assessment.”
Britain’s Got Talent returns tonight on ITV at 8pm