Watchdog Group Finds BBC Violated No Standards in Broadcasting Springer Opera

Classic Arts News   Watchdog Group Finds BBC Violated No Standards in Broadcasting Springer Opera
Ofcom, an independent U.K. television watchdog group, has ruled that the BBC's screening of the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera does not violate television standards or rules, BBC News reports.

Springer, which is a combination of opera and musical theater, offended some viewers, including a number of Christian groups, with its depiction of Biblical figures as guests on Springer's combative talk show.

Ofcom looked into the broadcast because it received 7,940 complaints before the show aired last January, and 8,860 afterward. The BBC received 55,000 complaints beforehand, and another 8,000 afterward.

Among the targets of the complaints were the show's use of curse words, the suggestion that Jesus was gay, and a re-enactment of the crucifixion.

The BBC's response to the complaints was that the show's artistic merit outweighed its offenses. For its ruling, Ofcam examined the show with reference to 12 sections of its standards code, and found no violations.

"Ofcom recognizes that a large number of people were deeply offended by the transmission," Ofcom said. The broadcast featured "strong language, violent behavior, and revelations of an extreme or shocking nature."

The group found, however, that "[w]hilst the show clearly had the potential to offend and indeed the intention to shock, it was set in a very clear context as a comment on modern television," and that Springer's strong language came well after clear warnings to viewers about the show's content.

In addition, much of drew complaints from viewers was clearly a dream sequence, which Ofcam called "a cartoon, full of grotesque images, which challenged the audience's views about morality and the human condition."

According to both Ofcam and the BBC, the number of complaints was unprecedented. The campaign against Springer "appears to have been the first large-scale Internet campaign to Ofcam on any broadcasting issue," the group said in its ruling.

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