Springer TV opera faces blasphemy complaint

THE BBC is being investigated by Scottish prosecutors amid claims it broke blasphemy laws by broadcasting the controversial Jerry Springer - The Opera north of the Border.

The investigation was prompted by a religious group which believes BBC managers who gave the go-ahead for last week’s broadcast committed blasphemy, a criminal offence under Scots common law.

Reverend George Hargreaves, leader of the Christian political party Operation Christian Vote, has written to the procurator fiscal in Glasgow formally requesting an investigation into whether a crime was committed by BBC Scotland executives.

Last night a Crown Office spokeswoman said the complaint was under consideration.

The last recorded public prosecution for blasphemy in Scotland was in 1843 when bookseller Thomas Paterson was sentenced at Edinburgh High Court to 15 months in prison for selling blasphemous books.

But more recently, in 1989, the British Board of Film Classification banned a video, Visions of Ecstasy, because it violated blasphemy laws.

Yesterday Hargreaves said: "The blasphemy in Jerry Springer - The Opera is the image of Jesus in a nappy saying he feels gay. To me that is gratuitously offensive. Given that Jesus is alive, it is possible for him to be libelled, slandered and insulted. This is known as blasphemy and is part of Scots common law.

"Our issue is that we need to uphold the law. We demonstrated against the broadcast and our demonstrations were peaceful. We upheld the law and now we expect the fiscal to uphold the law. The BBC has clearly overstepped the mark."

The broadcast last Saturday night on BBC2 drew 1.8 million viewers and attracted a record 47,000 complaints.

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: "The BBC took an editorial decision to transmit the programme across the UK. We have the capacity in Scotland to opt out but agreed to be part of the network transmission."

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