BBC Must Stand Firm Against Religious Bullies

6th January 2005

The BBC has been urged not to cancel the broadcast of Jerry Springer - The Opera on Saturday night, after the Corporation came under increasing religious pressure to do so.

The National Secular Society has written to BBC2 controller Roly Keating urging him not to give in to religious protestors who want the show banned.

Terry Sanderson, vice president of the National Secular Society, said: "This organised attack is the latest of a series of attempts by religious interests to control what we can see or say in this country. The BBC has already wasted £2.5 million of licence-payers' money by cancelling the satirical cartoon series Popetown at the behest of the Catholic Church. In Birmingham, the play Bezhti was cancelled after violent protests by Sikhs. This growing power of the religious lobby over our media must be halted or free expression in this country will be severely compromised."

"Jerry Springer - The Opera is an award-winning show, and having been run for two years at theatres demonstrates it popularity. It is the BBC’s formal duty to reflect society and bring such plays to a wider audience who might not otherwise be able to see them at a theatre. All the research by TV regulators shows that British audiences have a high tolerance threshold for swearing on TV. as long as it is relevant to the context. The programme will be shown at a late hour, with adequate warnings about its nature, and viewers have a right to see it. Those who are likely to be offended have a similar right to turn it off."

Mr Sanderson added that it was the BBC’s duty to cater to all audiences, and not just one section of the community. "Religious broadcasting already has a disproportionate amount of air time," he said, "We shouldn’t now see minority religious leaders dictating what the rest of us can and can’t see. If we follow that route, there would be hardly any contemporary drama on TV. Drama and comedy are about pushing the boundaries. Jerry Springer - The Opera must go ahead, not only because it is worthwhile drama, but also to show that the BBC is fairly run and does not give in to opposition from powerful minority interest groups."

Mr Sanderson noted that the latest poll (by Yougov for the Daily Telegraph) had shown that believers were now in a minority in this country.