Rowan Atkinson's Archbishop Comic Relief sketch prompts Ofcom investigation after 3,000 complaints


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The Independent Culture

Rowan Atkinson’s Archbishop of Canterbury sketch for Comic Relief is to be formally investigated by Ofcom after it drew more than 3,000 complaints.

In the three minute pre-watershed broadcast, Rowan Atkinson dressed up as a generic Archbishop to talk about “shagging your neighbour”, “arsing about”, and why prayer “doesn’t work”.

The BBC received 2,819 complaints about its Comic Relief coverage, the majority of which centred on the Archbishop of Canterbury sketch. Ofcom heard a further 484 complaints from unhappy viewers, who raised concerns about the language used and the religious context.

A quarter of complaints to the BBC about the sketch were thought to concern religious offence, with the remainder relating to Atkinson’s use of pre-watershed language.

Media regulator Ofcom will now examine if Atkinson’s language was acceptable before the 9pm watershed and whether the BBC applied “generally accepted standards” in its broadcast.

The BBC later apologised for the sketch and removed it from its iPlayer service after the Comic Relief broadcast.

A statement released by the BBC last month said: “[Comic Relief] is made for a varied and wide-ranging audience, so getting the language, tone and content of the evening is extremely important to us…to any viewers we may have offended, we apologise.

“Rowan is well known for his comedy characters and this was an affectionate portrayal of an Archbishop figure, which was intended to amuse and entertain. We did not mean to cause any offence.”

The Ofcom investigation is underway and will deliver within 50 days.