Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Christians to sue BBC over Springer show 'blasphemy'

Christians to sue BBC over Springer show 'blasphemy'

Security has been stepped up at the London theatre staging Jerry Springer: the Opera as
the controversy over the BBC's decision to broadcast the production intensified yesterday.

The move came as Christian Voice, a lobby group that spearheaded a wave of protests
against the corporation, announced plans to launch a blasphemy action against the BBC
and the West End's Cambridge Theatre.

The opera, shown on BBC2 on Saturday night, has as its subject the confrontational
American chat show and includes strong language and scenes depicting Jesus, God,
Mary and Satan.

Asked about the prospect of being prosecuted for blasphemy, a spokesman for the producer, Avalon, said: "We have yet to receive any legal paperwork and it would be inappropriate for us to comment until we do." In turn, the BBC has been consulting police over possible action against Christian Voice, which published home addresses of 15 senior corporation executives and producers. Some households were deluged with hundreds of calls.

A BBC source said one of the calls mentioned "bloodshed" and another warned the recipient
that "something bad could happen". The corporation said it had been forced to adopt
security measures akin to those it had used in the past after programmes dealing with the far Right.

"We are not going to put up with dedicated public servants and their families being abused,"
the BBC source added. The programme attracted an audience of 1.8 million viewers, about
300,000 more than usual for that slot. There had been 47,000 protest calls before and during
transmission and 300 afterwards. Christian Voice remained unrepentant over the tactics it
had employed. Stephen Green, the organisation's national director, said it had brought 1,200
people on to the streets on Saturday night, including 400 to 500 people who protested outside BBC Television Centre at White City, west London...

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