Ofcom clears BBC over Jerry Springer opera

The BBC's decision to screen Jerry Springer: The Opera has been cleared by the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

The BBC's decision to screen Jerry Springer: The Opera has been cleared by the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

The watchdog ruled that the show, which attracted more than 16,000 complaints, was not in breach of broadcasting guidelines. The decision to screen the successful West End musical on BBC2 in January sparked outrage and accusations of blasphemy.

Ofcom said it "appreciated that the representation of religious figures was offensive to some people". But it added: "The show's effect was to satirise modern fame and the culture of celebrity.

"The images that caused the most offence were part of a 'dream' sequence serving as a metaphor for the fictional Jerry Springer and his chat show.

"In Ofcom's view, these were not meant to be faithful or accurate depictions of religious figures, but a product of the lead character's imagination. Even as he lay dying, the fictional Jerry Springer still saw his life through the lens of his confessional show."

Ofcom received 7,491 complaints before transmission and 8,860 afterwards. It also received 210 messages of support for the programme.

Complaints were investigated by Ofcom's content board - the highest level at which any complaints are considered.

Ofcom pointed to the fact that the musical was preceded by a programme which aimed to put the show into context.

As well as complaints about the language, critics of the show argued that the programme singled out the Christian faith. They said that the characterisation of religious figures was offensive, with Eve putting her hands up Jesus's loincloth and a suggestion that Jesus had been gay.

The BBC said the outstanding artistic significance of the programme outweighed the offence caused to some viewers.

The watchdog said: "Ofcom appreciated that the representation of religious figures was offensive to some people. Their main concern arose from the depictions of figures at the heart of the complaints' religious beliefs.

"The production made clear that all the characters in the second act were the product of the fictional Springer's imagination; his concepts of Satan, God, Jesus and the others, and modelled on the guests on his show.

"Ofcom did not believe that the characters represented were, in the context of this piece, conveyed as faithful or accurate representations of religious figures, but were characterisations of the show's participants."

The BBC welcomed the report, which has come after its own governors cleared the show.

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