BBC axes Popetown

 The BBC has decided not to show Popetown - a satirical cartoon set in the Vatican - because of concerns that it would offend Catholics. The controller of Channel Three, Stuart Murphy, said: "the comic impact of Popetown did not outweigh the potential offence it will cause. There is a fine judgement line in comedy between the scurrilously funny and the offensive." Mr Murphy said shelving the ten episodes of Popetown had been an "extremely difficult and complex" decision to make. He explained: "I knew when we developed the series that there was risk involved but unfortunately, once we saw the finished series, it became clear that the programme fell on the wrong side of the line." Alan Marke, managing director of Channel X, who produced the series, said: "I am incredibly disappointed about this decision as I am very proud of this project and all the talent involved. "But I understand the world has changed since the series was originally commissioned and sympathise with the difficult decision the BBC has had to make." Thousands of letters, e-mails and several petitions from Catholics and non-Catholics were sent to the BBC protesting about the programme. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales have welcomed the decision to withdraw Popetown. The Right Reverend Crispian Hollis, Bishop of Portsmouth and chair of the Bishops' Conference Media Committee said: "I am delighted that this has been withdrawn. It was obviously going to be a controversial programme which would have caused offence, not least among the Catholic community who hold the person of the Holy Father in the highest regard and affection. "Any attempt to belittle or diminish his status as the leader of the Catholic Church is totally unacceptable, and not only to Catholics," he added. The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, said: "I am very pleased at the BBC s decision to withdraw the proposed programme, Popetown. "I am reassured that this decision demonstrates genuine sensitivity on the part of the BBC to the faith and deeply held convictions of many people. "It also shows the BBC's determination to achieve high standards in all their programmes." Archbishop Nichols added: "I am sure that this decision will help to build confidence between the Catholic Church and the BBC under its new Chairman and Director General." Sources: BBC/CCCS/Archdiocese of Birmingham

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