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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Virgin Mary complaints rejected
An actress as the Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary was portrayed as a child of 12 or 13

Almost 300 complaints about two controversial TV programmes have been rejected by the BBC.

The BBC dismissed 174 complaints that documentary The Virgin Mary, about the life of the Biblical figure, tried to undermine religious beliefs.

And a gay kiss scene in Casualty, attracted 114 complaints, which were also not upheld by a BBC panel.

In other decisions, Jonathan Ross was criticised for going too far with a racy joke on his Saturday morning BBC Radio 2 show and some staff are being retrained after a BBC Radio 7 trailer proved too scary for children.

Some 45 complaints have been upheld over the last three months out of a total of 709 made to the BBC.

BBC One's The Virgin Mary portrayed the central figure as an uneducated child aged 12 or 13 who was sold into marriage to an older man, but found herself pregnant while unmarried.

It was broadcast close to Christmas - too close for comfort, in the eyes of some viewers
Greg Dyke
BBC Director General

Presenter Sue Johnston said many viewers would find the story "brutal and shocking".

In the BBC's latest complaints report, Director General Greg Dyke said the documentary was an effort to throw light on a "hugely important figure whose life we actually know very little about".

"It was broadcast close to Christmas - too close for comfort, in the eyes of some viewers, who felt that it tried to undermine their religious beliefs," he said.

It was not helped by "rather misleading" press coverage before transmission, he added.

Holby City's Ben, played by David Paisley
Casualty featured a gay kiss

Casualty's complaints came when A&E assistant Tony Vincent, played by Lee Warburton, and midwife Ben Saunders, played by David Paisley, were seen kissing in January.

Viewers were surprised "even though the way their relationship was developing had been pretty clear from previous episodes of Casualty and Holby City", Mr Dyke said.

Casualty and The Virgin Mary "presented difficult judgements", he said.

"You have to think long and hard before defending a programme in circumstances like that.

"In the end, the unit decided that the programmes hadn't fallen below the standards required by the relevant BBC guidelines, even though they had offended some viewers."

Young audience

Another eight viewers complained about the TV trailer for digital radio station BBC7, which featured a shadowy figure sneaking into a child's bedroom and was shown before the 2100 watershed.

The BBC's report said "full account was not taken" of the number of children who would be watching.

"Those responsible for the creation and scheduling of such trails are being retrained in order to ensure that they meet the standards to which the BBC is committed," the report said.

The complaint against Jonathan Ross came during "an exchange with a guest which was already on the smutty side", the report said.

"Jonathan Ross' final comment did go too far," it said.

Another four complaints that BBC Two's Top Gear presenters stigmatised gay people were upheld, as were two about a joke made by Watchdog presenters about Tourette Syndrome.

Other complaints of bad language, sexual conduct and violence were upheld against shows including SAS: Are You Tough Enough?, Hypersex and Tomorrow La Scala!

BBC film inflames faithful
21 Dec 02  |  UK News
Bill's gay kiss scene cleared
13 Oct 02  |  Entertainment
BBC rapped over EastEnders
31 Jan 03  |  Entertainment
Behind the complaints
17 Sep 02  |  Entertainment

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