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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
Ofcom questions Christmas Dibley
Vicar of Dibley
The Vicar of Dibley attracted 11.8m viewers on Christmas Day
Media watchdog Ofcom has questioned the BBC's decision to screen an episode of The Vicar of Dibley on Christmas Day that showed its heroine getting drunk.

In the show Dawn French's character, Geraldine Granger, forgot midnight mass and fell out of her pulpit.

Ofcom received 66 complaints about the show and called the decision for it to be shown on 25 December "questionable".

But it did not feel the programme "went so far as to actually denigrate the beliefs of those watching".

Viewers claimed the episode, in which French's character questions her calling as a vicar in the village, demeaned Christianity, and objected to it being screened on Christmas Day.

Questionable timing

The BBC said it regretted any offence caused, adding it had not intended to mock Christian beliefs.

Ofcom said: "While it was appropriately scheduled after the watershed, we felt that it was perhaps questionable for the material, making fun of people's misconceptions of Christianity, to be shown at this particularly important festival in the Christian calendar."

The watchdog added that "on balance" the episode did not denigrate Christians' beliefs because it had a positive Christian message and sent up only "the villagers' absurd religious naivety".

Last month Ofcom decided that the BBC's controversial screening of Jerry Springer: The Opera did not break rules on TV standards, after the watchdog received more than 16,000 complaints from viewers.

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