BBC governors reject 'Springer' complaints

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The Independent Online

BBC governors have rejected 65,000 complaints about the decision to broadcast Jerry Springer - The Opera, arguing that its "outstanding artistic significance" outweighed the offence it caused.

But Angela Sarkis, one of the five governors who investigated the television version of the show, said she "profoundly disagreed" with the decision not to uphold the complaints.

The award-winning stage musical based on the US talk show host provoked an outcry, before and after it was broadcast on 8 January on BBC2, with Christian extremists making death threats against the BBC2 controller Roly Keating, forcing him and his family into hiding.

The opera portrays a nappy-wearing Jesus and describes him as "a little bit gay". The BBC governors' programmes complaints committee (GPCC) yesterday published its finding by a majority of four to one that BBC management's decision to broadcast the opera did not breach editorial guidelines.

While the GPCC said the offence, particularly to religious beliefs, should not be underestimated, it added that the BBC had scheduled the programme after the watershed and clearly flagged up its content. "The outstanding artistic significance of the programme outweighed the offence it caused to some," said the GPCC.

The Evangelical Alliance, the Christian group, said it was "deeply disappointed" at the decision and applauded the "courage" of Ms Sarkis. It said: "We reflect the views not only of Christians, but also of many ordinary licence-fee payers who were offended ... They will be bewildered by this decision."