Angry Catholic bishops call for Canwest boycott

Incensed by television channel C4's continued broadcasting of the cartoon Popetown, New Zealand's Catholic bishops are calling on the nearly 500,000 New Zealand Catholics to boycott not just C4 but its Canwest stablemates TV3 and several radio stations .

C4 launched Popetown on June 8 despite the programme's developers, Britain's BBC, deciding it was too risky even for its more offbeat BBC3 station.

The Catholic Church in New Zealand has repeatedly condemned the programme, saying it portrays greed, inappropriate sexuality and bestiality in the Vatican.

The Pope, the church says, is "depicted as a cretinous, dirty, spoiled brat ... It also implies a predilection on the part of one Vatican-based priest for exotic animals in a way that suggests moral degeneration of an appalling kind" .

Now, after Canwest declined to pull Popetown, New Zealand's bishops are stepping up their attack.

Catholic Communications director Lyndsay Freer said the church would probably now complain to the Broadcasting Standards Authority as it was dissatisfied with Canwest's response to the complaint.

In the meantime, the nine New Zealand bishops were calling on the almost half a million Catholic New Zealanders to boycott all Canwest stations and its advertisers.

Canwest owns TV3 and C4, and the radio stations More FM, Kiwi FM, The Breeze, Radio Works, The Edge, The Rock and Solid Gold.

"We want our people to make their complaints and their opinions heard," said Mrs Freer.

She didn't expect all Catholics would make the boycott, but if some did that would definitely show they were being offended by Popetown.

"BBC3 made the series and then decided it was too offensive to screen - Canwest obviously don't think it is. They think it's okay to offend Catholics."

The church had also written to Canwest advertisers suggesting they pull their advertising from their channels.

After tonight's screening of Popetown, it will have four episodes to run. Calls to C4 station manager Andrew Szusterman last night were not returned.

Previously he has said the programme was satire and no more offensive than Father Ted, The Vicar of Dibley or Monty Python's Life of Brian.

- NZPA

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