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C4 brings forward contentious show

Published: 8:02AM Tuesday February 21, 2006 Source: RNZ

Canwest, which runs the television channel C4, has brought forward the screening of a controversial episode of the South Park cartoon featuring the Virgin Mary.

The episode, which depicts the Virgin Mary menstruating, was due to be screened in May.

The Catholic Church has called for a boycott of Canwest's channels TV3 and C4 and their advertisers.

The television company's Chief Operating Officer in New Zealand, Rick Friesen, says in light of the controversy surrounding the episode it will now screen the programme on Wednesday night. He says once the controversial scenes are seen in the context of the entire episode, many people will wonder what the fuss is about.

Friesen says the episode isn't as offensive as it's being made out to be and is a strong, well put together satire.

Catholic Bishops have written to congregations condemning the programme and are calling for a boycott of Canwest channels TV3 and C4, and the products advertised on them.

And Prime Minister Helen Clark has added her voice to the issue. Asked if she thinks Canwest should air the programme the Prime Minister said it is a matter of taste and judgement for the broadcaster. 

However, Clark says that as a woman she would find the episode offensive. She says the controversy - in light of the international furore over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons - further highlights the need to respect others' beliefs. 

The Catholic group Family Life International has set up an internet petition against the episode. 

Spokesperson Brendon Malone says Family Life is also giving advice on how people can oppose the programme. He says the episode is obscene and is being broadcast purely for shock value.

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