Rowan Atkinson Comic Relief sketch cleared by Ofcom

Rowan Atkinson Comic Relief drew a peak audience of 12.2 million people

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A Comic Relief sketch starring Rowan Atkinson as a fictional Archbishop of Canterbury has been found not in breach of broadcasting codes, Ofcom has ruled.

The sketch, shown pre-watershed, featured Atkinson comparing boy band One Direction to Jesus's disciples. He also claimed prayer "doesn't work".

An Ofcom spokesman said the regulator cleared the sketch "after careful consideration".

The skit drew more than 2,200 complaints to the BBC.

At the time, the BBC apologised and said the sketch "was intended to amuse and entertain," adding, "we did not mean to cause any offence".

The corporation said the broadcast "was problematic for a number of different reasons" and "did not translate as we had hoped".

The BBC also withdrew a follow-up clip which was due to air later during the charity broadcast.

The sketch was also removed from the BBC's iPlayer.

Around a quarter of the complaints were specifically about religious offence, with the rest concerned with pre-watershed (2100) language.

The Ofcom spokesman said: "In reaching this decision we took into consideration the context of the material.

"This included that Comic Relief is widely known for featuring irreverent and often absurd comedy sketches; the intention of the sketch was to create humour rather than seriously deride Christianity; and that the BBC took immediate action on the night of the broadcast, including issuing an apology for the tone of the sketch, removing it from BBC iPlayer and withdrawing a follow-up sketch due for broadcast later in the evening."

A host of UK stars were involved in this year's event which marked Comic Relief's 25th anniversary.

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