Record 110,000 complaints over BBC coverage of Prince Philip’s death, official figures show

‘We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given,’ company statement says

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 15 April 2021 18:49
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The moment the BBC announced Prince Philip had died

The BBC received a record 110,000 complaints over its coverage of Prince Philip’s death, according to the broadcaster’s official figures.

It is the highest number of complaints ever published in the UK about television programming.

After the Duke of Edinburgh’s death was announced on Friday, the BBC cleared its schedules and dedicated whole channels to tributes and programmes on the royal.

Six days later, more than 109,700 people have lodged their grievances over its coverage, according to the BBC‘s fortnightly complaints bulletin.

The figures – published on Thursday – showed 104,010 people complained within the first three days.

The BBC said in a statement: “The passing of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh was a significant event which generated a lot of interest both nationally and internationally.

“We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given and impact this had on the billed TV and radio schedules.”

The statement added: “We do not make such changes without careful consideration and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster during moments of national significance.”

The number of complaints over the BBC’s programming after Philip’s death – which saw the broadcaster halt coverage of key issues such as the coronavirus pandemic - is higher than the 63,000 received over Jerry Springer: The Opera back in 2005.

It has also surpassed the number of grievances officially lodged over Russell Brand’s prank call to actor Andrew Sachs, which gathered 42,000 complaints in 2008.

The broadcaster set up a dedicated webpage for viewers to lodge their dissatisfaction at its coverage, which was later taken down on Sunday.

Following the duke’s death at Windsor Castle aged 99, the BBC wiped its schedules across both BBC One and BBC Two to run a series of mirrored special programmes.

BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live also ran programmes about Philip on Friday.

The BBC also received complaints from viewers about the inclusion of the Duke of York in its coverage despite his association with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew stepped down from royal duties over his friendship with the late financier in 2019.

The BBC said: “All of Prince Philip‘s children gave a tribute to their father following his passing, which we have covered in our news programming.

“We have fully reported on the allegations against Prince Andrew and we have also made it clear that he has not been charged with any crime. We consider we have appropriately covered his comments.”

The BBC said it was “grateful” for all feedback and always listens to its audience’s response.

The broadcaster - along with ITV - saw ratings drop on Friday night, with BBC One’s fall by 6 per cent week-on-week and BBC Two by around two thirds.

At 4.2 million views, Channel 4’s Gogglebox was the most-watched programme on a single channel that night.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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