BBC backs its royal coverage

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THE BBC last night defended its coverage of the engagement of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles after receiving calls complaining that too much airtime was devoted to the story.

Scores of listeners and viewers e-mailed and phoned in, with one accusing journalists of being "on the verge of hysteria".

Programmes such as BBC1's news at 6pm and The World at One on Radio 4 were attacked for devoting too much time to Thursday's announcement at the expense of other world stories. Simon Whomsley, a viewer, said: "Camilla and Charles to marry; Pope returns home; North Korea has confirmed it has nuclear weapons. This is the order the news was presented tonight! Absolutely amazing." Dozens complained after Wildlife On One was dropped in favour of the BBC News Special: Charles and Camilla on BBC1.

A spokesman for the BBC said: "We recognise that not all viewers are interested in stories relating to the Royal Family, but equally there is a significant audience who do wish to be informed of such decisions."

Howard Jacobson, page 40