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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 08:43 GMT
Protests as BBC screens Springer
David Soul as Jerry Springer
The show's star David Soul has also defended the broadcast
The BBC is bracing itself for further criticism after it screened Jerry Springer - The Opera on Saturday.

Hundreds of Christian protesters rallied outside BBC buildings before and during the broadcast on BBC Two.

At least 45,000 people contacted the BBC about the show, mainly to complain about swearing and religious themes.

The BBC denied reports that any bosses were in hiding after abusive phone calls, but said unpleasant calls had been received and reported to police.

Director general Mark Thompson defended the decision to screen the programme.

Mr Thompson, himself a practising Christian, said he believed there was nothing blasphemous in the production and was going out after the watershed with "very, very clear" warnings about strong language.

On Saturday, the Conservatives had joined the attack on the screening, with deputy leader Michael Ancram saying the BBC had a duty to exercise caution.

Mark Thompson
There is nothing in this which I believe to be blasphemous
Mark Thompson
BBC director general

It was reported the show contained a total of 8,000 obscenities - a total reached by adding every swear word sung by each member of the 27-strong chorus.

But a BBC spokesperson said the number was less than 300 and was arrived at "even using the broadest definition of an offensive word".

And on Saturday evening, a spokeswoman said a growing number of e-mails and calls it had received were in support of the corporation's decision to screen the show, which continues to run to packed audiences in London's West End.


Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: "I find it astonishing that Mark Thompson and David Soul [the show's star] claim they are Christians and they can see nothing wrong with Jerry Springer - The Opera.

"What kind of Christians are the sort of people who find mocking God and Jesus Christ acceptable?

"If this show portrayed Mohammed or Vishnu as homosexual, ridiculous and ineffectual, it would never have seen the light of day."

About 150 protesters, some bearing placards calling for senior BBC staff to be sacked, were gathered outside BBC Television Centre on Saturday night before the show was screened.

Imran Joseph, 38, a caterer from Feltham, Middlesex, said the BBC should have pulled the plug on the show in the face of "an intense volume of criticism".

A lot of people in this country feel the same
Frank Saunders

"There should be freedom of speech but there should never be freedom for desecration," he said.

And charity fundraiser Derek Cartwright, 64, of east London, said the show's "mockery" of Jesus Christ and God "lowers the moral tone of the nation".

"Showing Jerry Springer - The Opera sews evil into people and scandalises Christianity.

"It shows Jesus as a homosexual and that is entirely false."

At a similar TV Centre broadcast a day earlier, protester Frank Saunders, a security manager from Brentwood, Essex, said: "It's the last straw. The standards of broadcasting have slipped far too low."


About 30 people also protested outside BBC Broadcasting House in Cardiff on Saturday night, while more than 100 campaigners staged a demonstration outside the corporation's offices in Birmingham.

BBC facilities in Belfast and Plymouth were also targeted by demonstrators.

The National Secular Society defended the BBC's right to screen the programme, urging the BBC not to give in to "religious bullies".

Vice-president Terry Sanderson said: "This organised attack is the latest of a series of attempts by religious interests to control what we can see or say in this country."

TV lobby group Mediawatch-UK has written to BBC chairman Michael Grade claiming the show breached the corporation's guidelines on respecting religious sensibilities.

It has been a big hit on the London stage

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