The BBC Trust has rejected a complaint that Stephen Fry “trivialised” child abuse during an episode of QI in which he recited a limerick about a chaplain’s desire for a choir boy.
A report by the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) said the broadcast was “at the margins of acceptability” but had not breached editorial guidelines.
During the episode, Fry recited the lines: “There was a young chaplain from King's / Who talked about God and such things / But his real desire / Was a boy in the choir / With a bottom like jelly on springs.”
The ESC report said a woman complained because “she felt that the BBC showed a lack of understanding of what the limerick implied. The complainant said that the limerick trivialised the subject of paedophilia.”
The episode of QI, broadcast on BBC Two on 11 January, was followed by a Newsnight edition focusing on the Jimmy Savile scandal.
The committee said: “The likelihood of causing offence was, we acknowledge, increased by the news agenda on the day of broadcast. However, the comparisons that can be drawn between the scenario described in the limerick and the nature and extent of the abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile are, in our view, limited.”
It also pointed out there was a gap of almost three minutes between Fry's performance and the start of the current affairs show and that “the object of the humour was the hypocrisy of a chaplain, and not the act of paedophilia”.
The committee also said the decision to broadcast the verse was “finely balanced” but “most viewers would not consider the limerick's content strong enough to find a resonance in the Newsnight report”.
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