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Mar 3 2005
Christians Accuse BBC Over Jerry Springer Musical

Christians Accuse BBC Over Jerry Springer Musical

Thu Mar 3, 8:37 AM ET Arts/Stage - Reuters

By Andrew Cawthorne

LONDON (Reuters) - A Christian pressure group launched legal action against the BBC on Thursday over its television broadcast of a profanity-laden musical about U.S. talk-show host Jerry Springer.

In the latest protest against the publicly funded broadcaster over its January broadcast, the Christian Institute filed a complaint at Britain's High Court accusing it of discriminating against Christians and breaking its own charter.

"I think this is the most offensive and spiteful show ever broadcast by the BBC," said institute director Colin Hart.

"Jerry Springer - The Opera" had been on the London stage for several years when it was shown uncut on the BBC.

It features Jesus, Mary and God as guests on Springer's show, and includes hundreds of swear words. Jesus is shown wearing diapers and engaging the Devil in a swearing match.

"There may be many shows running in West End theaters that I find offensive, but I am not paying for them to be pumped into my living room," Hart added.

"Genuine religious debate and criticism is one thing, but this show is an offensive, spiteful, systematic mockery and willful denigration of Christian belief. It is inconceivable that the BBC would broadcast a show that abused the prophet Mohammed or (Sikh) Guru Nanak in the same way."


The BBC has defended airing the show, calling it a serious work of art lauded by critics and laden with awards.

A spokesman added on Thursday the broadcaster had received no legal papers from the Christian Institute.

A second Christian lobby group, Christian Voice, has brought a private blasphemy prosecution against the BBC over the show.

But the British Christian pressure groups have none of the political clout of their counterparts in the American Christian right, and their actions were not expected to succeed.

The Christian Institute said the BBC had broken its own charter commitment to avoid material that "offends against good taste or decency," and had singled out Christianity for "abuse that no other faith would receive."

Controversy over the show has brought abusive phone calls to BBC executives, a demonstration outside its offices and a torrent of listener complaints.

The dispute came shortly after hundreds of angry Sikh protesters stormed a theater in Birmingham and forced it to scrap a play depicting sexual abuse in a Sikh temple.

The Springer musical, written by British composer Richard Thomas and comedian Stewart Lee, is based on the brash American talk show whose lurid topics ranged from "Honey I'm a Call Girl" to "Bring on the Bisexuals."

Springer loved the show, attending its London premiere and quipping: "I wish I had thought of it."

-- Additional reporting by Paul Majendie

(This is the same play and the same organization featured here in an earlier story. --Nick)

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