BBC right to broadcast Springer opera rules governors' committee

LONDON – The BBC was right to screen the controversial TV show 'Jerry Springer: The Opera', the governors' programme complaints committee said today.

The governors decided by a majority of four to one not to uphold complaints against the BBC for screening the opera because it did not breach the corporation's editorial standards, codes nor guidelines.

The hit musical, shown on BBC Two in January, drew more than 60,000 complaints mainly from religious groups. It features scenes ridiculing the figure of Jesus on the cross, mocking the stigmata wounds on his body as "acts of crudeness", as well as showing Jesus as a nappy wearer who was a "bit gay".

The alternative opera also featured almost 200 uses of the word "fuck" and a number of uses of the word "c**t".

Backing the BBC, the majority view of the committee was that the swearing was "not necessarily unacceptable in terms of late-night  terrestrial television".

The BBC said that the majority took the view that the issue of offence was not to be taken lightly, but that comprehensive attempts were made to minimise offence through appropriate scheduling, clear warnings and the use of other programmes prior to the broadcast to set the piece in context.

The committee also said that the BBC has a duty to innovate and to reflect new and challenging ideas.

Richard Tait, chairman of the GPCC, added: "As a committee, all of us are satisfied that we addressed the issues raised by the many people who contacted the BBC both before and following the transmission of 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' and each gave consideration before reaching our judgment."

The committee's findings will be sent to Ofcom, which has delayed its own ruling due to the report. A final decision on the broadcast could should be reached by the end of April.

'Jerry Springer: The Opera' was written by composer Richard Thomas and comedian Stewart Lee, and is based on Springer's famed US talkshow.

The show centres on the worst day of Springer's life, when he has to face nappy-wearing adults, a troupe of tap-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen, not to mention Jesus and the Devil in a foul-mouthed tirade against each other.

Pic: Dan Goldsmith

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