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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 17:50 GMT
Actors rally against Springer ban
Jerry Springer
The opera featured Jesus, Mary and God as talk show guests
Actors union Equity has urged its members to protest against two high street stores' decision to remove Jerry Springer - The Opera from sale.

Sainsbury's said it stopped selling a DVD of the show after complaints, while Woolworths said it removed it from sale for commercial reasons.

Equity asked members to complain about the "acts of censorship", with support from stars including Rowan Atkinson.

The BBC received 47,000 complaints before it broadcast the opera.

'Artistic freedom'

The opera - which was filmed during its successful run in London's West End - depicted Jesus, Mary and God as talk show guests.

The union's general secretary, Christine Payne, said: "Equity strongly supports artistic freedom and equally strongly opposes censorship in all its forms, however offended any individual may feel themselves to be by a particular piece of dramatic art."

She said union members derive income from the sale of recorded material, including DVDs.

Miriam Margoyles
Miriam Margoyles has supported the Equity protest
Ms Payne said the union had received 200 e-mails of support for its protest, from actors including Atkinson and Ladies in Lavender star Miriam Margolyes.

"We expect a lot more will be contacting the stores directly," Ms Payne said.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said the store had received complaints from Equity members, but it would not disclose how many.

"We received numerous complaints from customers about the Jerry Springer DVD and it showed poor sales in the two weeks it was available in our stores," he said.

We removed the DVD early because we would never wish to cause any offence to our customers
Sainbury's spokesman
"We removed the DVD early because we would never wish to cause any offence to our customers, but based on commercial reasons the DVD would have been withdrawn soon thereafter."

A Woolworths spokesman said it had received numerous comments from members of the public both for and against the DVD.

"Woolworths is guided by legislation and regulatory bodies on what it can and cannot sell in its stores. Our decisions to sell products are based on customer demand."

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