LONDON (Reuters) - The producer of a whodunit detective series based in an idyllic English country village has been sacked after causing outrage by saying the program "wouldn't work" if ethnic minorities were written into the script.
Brian True-May, who has been working on ITV's "Midsomer Murders" since it first aired in 1997, said on Tuesday that the show did not include minorities "because it wouldn't be the English village with them. It just wouldn't work."
The show's production company, All3Media, told Reuters that True-May, a co-author of the series, had been suspended "pending the outcome" of an investigation it was conducting into the matter.
A spokesman for ITV said: "We are shocked and appalled at these personal comments by Brian True-May which are absolutely not shared by anyone at ITV."
"We are in urgent discussions with All3Media ... who have informed us that they have launched an immediate investigation into the matter and have suspended Mr True-May pending the outcome," he added.
True-May admitted in an interview with the Radio Times magazine that he may not be politically correct and said he thought "Englishness" should include other races in the 21st century but added that he was loathe to change what had proved to be a recipe for success.
"We're the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way," he said of the series based on books by Caroline Graham.
True-May said the show appealed to audiences around the world because "they love the perceived English genteel eccentricity."
"It's not British, it's very English," he said of the long-running whodunit which is broadcast in 231 territories.
"We are a cosmopolitan society in this country, but if you watch Midsomer you wouldn't think so," he added.
Actor Jason Hughes, who has played Detective Sergeant Ben Jones in the village drama for the last five years told the magazine Midsomer Murders was not about multiculturalism, but said that did not mean there was no place for multiculturalism in the show.
"I don't think that we would all suddenly go: 'a black gardener in Midsomer? You can't have that!' I think we'd all go, 'Great, fantastic,'" he said.
But True-May was adamant multiculturalism "would just look out of place" in the show which begins its 14th series this week.
It is no surprise therefore that the series was found to be "strikingly unpopular" among ethnic minority groups in a 2006 survey commissioned by the British Film Institute.
(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White)
Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Steve Addison