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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Springer Opera legal bid rejected
Jerry Springer - The Opera
Jerry Springer - The Opera featured Jesus and God as chat show guests
A bid to bring judicial review proceedings against the BBC for its broadcast of Jerry Springer - The Opera has been rejected.

The Christian Institute said the BBC discriminated against Christians and breached its Royal Charter by screening the opera on BBC Two in January.

But the High Court refused to grant the group permission to take legal action.

BBC director of television Jana Bennett said the ruling supported freedom of speech and BBC editorial independence.

Jerry Springer - The Opera depicted Jesus, God and Mary as talk show guests in Hell.

It presented Jesus as declaring himself to be "a bit gay". The hit musical featured up to 300 swear words.

Protesters rallied outside BBC buildings when the opera was shown
The corporation received 47,000 complaints before broadcasting the opera on 8 January, when hundreds of protesters rallied outside BBC buildings.

Days later BBC Radio Three producer Antony Pitts resigned from the BBC in protest, saying the broadcast contravened BBC guidelines and that the corporation had ignored complaints that the broadcast was blasphemous.

Colin Hart, director of evangelical group the Christian Institute, described the opera as "the most offensive and spiteful show ever broadcast by the BBC" as he began legal proceedings in March.

"Genuine religious debate and criticism is one thing, but this public service broadcast was an offensive, spiteful, systematic mockery and wilful denigration of Christian belief," he said.

The Christian Institute declined to comment on the High Court ruling on Thursday.

BBC director of television Jana Bennett
It is the BBC's right and duty to remain a public space in which the widest range of ideas and creativity can be shared by the public
Jana Bennett,
BBC director of television

The decision followed last month's Ofcom ruling that the BBC had not broken rules on TV standards by broadcasting the opera.

The BBC's Jana Bennett said: "Jerry Springer - The Opera has marked a significant landmark in the BBC's right to maintain freedom of speech and editorial independence.

"While we take any potential to offend the audience very seriously, we believe that it is the BBC's right and duty to remain a public space in which the widest range of ideas and creativity can be shared by the public."

Ms Bennett added: "I realise that for some people this was a difficult production and look forward to continuing to also transmit a range of inspiring and creative religious output to reflect different religious communities and faiths."

Legal threat over Springer opera
03 Jun 05 |  West Midlands
TV watchdog clears Springer opera
09 May 05 |  Entertainment
BBC rejects Springer complaints
30 Mar 05 |  Entertainment
Christian group takes BBC action
14 Mar 05 |  Entertainment
Row over Springer opera donation
23 Feb 05 |  Entertainment


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