The BBC has received over 100,000 complaints, according to the Sun newspaper.

The BBC’s wall to wall coverage following the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh has attracted considerable criticism – even from one of its own main presenters.

Simon McCoy, recently departed BBC Presenter leads criticism

Simon McCoy was a BBC News Anchor for 18 years, until his recent departure a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t take long for him to air his own views on the BBC’s Royal coverage, something he could never have done if he had stayed with the Corporation.

This is what he said on Twitter: “BBC 1 and BBC 2 showing the same thing. And presumably the News Channel too. Why? I know this is a huge event. But surely the public deserve a choice of programming?”

The BBC set up a ready-made platform to accept complaints from the public for its decision to exclude all other programming, including shutting down BBC 4 for the day. It seems they knew their decision would attract considerably criticism in advance.

MasterChef Final Taken Off Air

One particular programme, scheduled for Friday night, was commented on by its absence – The final of MasterChef. Millions of viewers were looking forward to watching this as an antidote to Lockdown. They were denied this “light relief” by the BBC’s programming decision to go ahead with wall to wall coverage about The Duke.


So why does the BBC do this in the event of the death of a Royal? When I was at the BBC, we used to regularly come in on Sundays for a “Queen Mother Obituary rehearsal”. A whole team of reporters, producers, camera crews and technical staff would practise how the BBC would cover the death of the Queen Mother. At the time she was of a similar age to the Duke. A lot of time, effort and expense over several years, went into rehearsing the event of the death of the Queen Mother. For many BBC staff, this was an “easy day at the office”, far less pressured than a normal working day.

I am sure the BBC would have been similarly prepared for the death of The Duke. Having invested so heavily in the preparations, the decision to virtually suspend all other programming would have been straightforward for editorial staff.

 Was identical coverage on BBC 1 and BBC 2 really necessary?

Many observers have questioned whether the ends justified the means? Was it really necessary for BBC 1 and BBC 2 to have identical coverage for a whole day’s programming, on one single news story? Was it really necessary to cancel all other programmes, including the final of MasterChef, while news coverage could have continued on BBC 1?

So, was this the right decision? If the BBC was showing itself to be out of touch with its audience, it wasn’t completely alone. ITV and Channel 4 both broadcasted extended news coverage of Prince Philip’s death.

So, was this the right decision?

Once again, it may be a case of “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. But it is interesting to note how traditional the BBC remains even in its controversial drive to attract a younger audience at virtually any cost. Same old Auntie?

Post by Andrew Carapiet, Director and Founder, Media Friendly.

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