More than half of callers back BBC over 'blasphemous' Springer opera

More than half of the 300 phone calls received by the BBC after Saturday night's screening of Jerry Springer - The Opera were in support of the comic musical.

The broadcast went ahead despite a campaign to halt it by some Christians, who accused the show of being blasphemous.

One organisation said that it was to pursue a private prosecution against the corporation. "If this is not blasphemy, nothing is," said Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice. "There will be nothing sacred if we cannot successfully prosecute the BBC."

Security guards protected senior BBC executives on the night of the screening after threats of "physical violence" and even "bloodshed" against staff and their children were made by protesters.

Critics of the programme said that the show featured more than 8,000 swear words and were angered by scenes that showed Jesus in a nappy admitting that he was "a bit gay". But the BBC insisted that fewer than 300 offensive words were in the opera, including 117 "f-words" and seven "c-words". The BBC recorded about 45,000 complaints prior to transmission after an organised telephone campaign.

The programme attracted 1.8 million viewers, a 10.8 per cent share of the audience.