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Attacks on Christ film rejected

Viewers have flooded a television watchdog with complaints about Channel 4's screening of the controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ, it was disclosed yesterday.

The Independent Television Commission, which upholds standards of taste and decency, received 1,554 protests, mainly complaining that the film was offensive to Christians. But only 17 of the complaints appeared to be from people who had seen the film - 1,459 were made before the film was broadcast.

The watchdog decided many people would view the film as "a thoughtful reflection on Christ's life" and rebuffed the complaints. The Last Temptation of Christ, by Martin Scorcese, had been widely attacked for depicting Christ having fantasies about Mary Magdalene.

Mary Whitehouse, campaigner for decency, had called unsuccessfully for a blasphemy or criminal libel prosecution, and the film was little shown in British cinemas. But yesterday the ITC said it had consulted religious advisors and felt that the film did not breach its code.

The film, based on a novel by Nikos Kazantsakis, attempted to deal seriously with the paradox that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, it said. "Undoubtedly, some Christians have taken strong exception to the way in which the film explores its central idea. Others, however, have found it a thoughtful reflection on Christ's life," it said.

t The ITC upheld 43 complaints about a "discourteous" interview on Get a Life, the Granada health programme. A British Slimming Clinics Affiliation spokesman, Dr George Kindy, had not been allowed to make his points properly and was then criticised for not doing so by presenter Richard Madeley, it said.

t The ITC also upheld 36 complaints about excessive violence in Yorkshire TV's The Governor, when a convicted child abuser was killed by fellow inmates.