Comic Relief's 'Archbishop of Canterbury' sketch was the most complained-about piece of TV in 2013

The media regulator Ofcom received 487 complaints about the charity's sketch, but ruled that the use of language and the offence caused were justified by the context

Rowan Atkinson appeared in the Comic Relief sketch
Rowan Atkinson appeared in the Comic Relief sketch

A Comic Relief sketch featuring the comedian Rowan Atkinson playing a fictional Archbishop of Canterbury was the single most complained-about piece of television in 2013, according to figures from the media regulator Ofcom.

The regulator received 487 complaints from viewers about the comedy sketch, which was broadcast as part of the Comic Relief: Funny for Money show in March. During the sketch, broadcast before the 9pm watershed, Atkinson’s character compared the boy band One Direction to Jesus’ disciples, said prayer "doesn’t work" and offered biblical clarifications including that "love your neighbour doesn’t mean shag your neighbour".

Despite the high number of complaints from viewers, Ofcom considered that both the use of language and the offence caused by the subject matter explored during the comedy sketch were justified by the context.

The charity was criticised in a BBC Panorama documentary last week for holding investments in arms and tobacco. It has announced that it will review its policies.

A Comic Relief spokeswoman said: "The BBC has full editorial control over the content for the Comic Relief Night of TV. However, we were sorry to learn that some people were offended by a sketch that was shown during the programme.

"The sketches are intended to be light-hearted entertainment that do not aim to offend. Comic Relief uses the power of entertainment to raise as much money as possible to help vulnerable people here in the UK and across Africa. Entertainers, comedians and professionals donate their time and talent to create comedy content for Red Nose Day and we are extremely grateful for their support."

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