BRITAIN’S Got Talent lost half a million viewers after Ashley Banjo’s Black Lives Matter dance routine.
The BGT stand-in judge opened the return of the popular talent competition last week with his dance group, Diversity, who used the opportunity to highlight racial injustice.
But the controversial choice of performance seems to have cost BGT which lost 500,000 viewers in just one week after 5.3million people watched the first semi-final of 2020.
While half a million people decided not to tune in, the show still pulled in a staggering 4.95million viewers.
It even smashed its closest rival in the ratings – The Last Night of the Proms – out of the park after it racked up only 2.1 million viewers.
Many fans have threatened to boycott BGT if the ITV competition does not apologise for the performance, which clocked a staggering 15,500 complaints to media regulator, Ofcom.
The number of complaints soared over the week after Ashley led the dance troupe for the raw performance.
The performance, which saw Ashley lying on the floor with a white police officer kneeling on him, referenced the death of George Floyd in the US.
There were also backing dancers performing dressed in riot gear and the group took the knee during the performance.
Ashley defiantly returned to the semi-finals this week, walking onstage to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing.
The choreographer won BGT with Diversity in 2009 and was not fazed by the thousands of complaints, branding the haters as the minority.
In an eloquent seven minute video, Ashley said, as an artist and performer, it was the “biggest gift ever” to return to the stage that made him famous and shine a light on important issues.
Sitting in a T-shirt and cap, the relaxed star said: “Trust me, I’m right in the centre of it, and the negativity is the minority. The positive response has been huge.
“So thank you so much to everyone who has supported, shown love and stood by what we did.
“We’re feeling positive, proud, happy, confident and we stand by every single decision that we made with that performance.
“If I’m honest with you, to be able to stand on the very stage that launched Diversity into the limelight, as a judge on the panel standing up for something we believe in, using our art to speak a nationwide conversation.”
Ashley, who was a judge at the weekend in place of the injured Simon Cowell, opened the performance by reciting a viral poem The Great Realisation by the singer Tomfoolery, which is about the BLM movement and police brutality.
The performance also addressed the coronavirus, capitalism, and the growth of delivery services like Amazon.
It was branded “powerful” by host Dec Donnelly moments after it ended.
After the performance, Ashley said: “This performance is extremely special to me and the rest of Diversity.
“2020 has been an incredible moment in history for both positive and negative reasons.
“We wanted to use the platform we’ve been given to make our voices heard, express how the events of this year have made us feel and think about how we might look back on them in the future… We call it hindsight 2020.”
Diversity’s powerful performance is now the second most complained about TV moment in a decade.
The first is Roxanne Pallett’s Celebrity Big Brother ‘punchgate’ drama with former Corrie star Ryan Thomas with 25,327 complaints and Kim Woodburn’s interview on Loose Women comes third with 7,912 complaints.
Some BGT viewers said the “powerful” performance had moved them to tears while others insisted a “political statement” had no place on the talent show.