Ofcom rejects Jerry Springer complaint

BBC cleared over screening of controversial 'Opera'

The media regulator Ofcom has cleared the BBC of breaching any television guidelines in its broadcasting of ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’.

The broadcast in January was the centre of a fierce public debate, with the BBC drawing severe criticism from several religious groups after announcing its plans to broadcast the play, which critics labelled “blasphemous” for its portrayal of Jesus as a grown man in nappies who had a swearing match with the Devil.

The programme attracted a record 16,801 complaints, 7,941 of them before transmission. However, Ofcom ruled that the show did not breach guidelines. In its ruling, the body recognised that the show’s “representation of religious figures was offensive to some people.”  But it accepted that “the show addressed moral issues in the context of a contemporary setting and contained a strong message.”  It “did not gratuitously humiliate individuals or any groups and in particular the Christian community. Its target was television and fame.” Further, the programme was appropriately scheduled and “was not only clearly labelled and signposted, but was preceded by programmes which aimed to put the whole show in context.”

Separately, the Christian Institute commenced judicial review proceedings in March against the BBC challenging the decision to broadcast (see 5RB News Item). The Ofcom decision in the BBC’s favour means that it is highly unlikely that the judicial review proceedings will be successful.