The BBC was allegedly bombarded with more than 100,000 complaints over its ‘excessive’ wall-to-wall TV coverage of the death of Prince Philip that saw it set up an online complaints form to handle the backlash.
The broadcaster axed its programming across multiple channels on Friday to air specials celebrating the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, who died at Windsor Castle that day two months shy of his 100th birthday.
Viewers were so maddened by its decision to cancel Friday night staples including the much-anticipated MasterChef final that it set up an online form to cope with a surge in traffic to the complaints site.
Even journalist Simon McCoy, who stepped down as the BBC’s News at One presenter last month, questioned the scale of the coverage, while former Labour MP Chris Mullins slammed the ‘North Korea-style’ simulcast.
Viewers turned off their TV sets in droves, with overnight ratings showing that BBC Two figures plunged by 64 per cent on the previous week while viewings for BBC One fell by six per cent in the same period.
The Prince Philip coverage has reportedly received more than 100,000 complaints, according to the Sun – making the segment one of the most controversial in the history of the BBC and British television.
An insider allegedly told the paper the BBC ‘seem[s] to have left many people very cross’, but claimed: ‘They would be criticised and accused of not being respectful enough if they didn’t lay the programmes on.’
The Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh walking at Broadlands, Hampshire, in 2007
The BBC was ‘bombarded with more than 100,000 complaints over its ‘excessive’ wall-to-wall TV coverage of the death of Prince Philip that saw it set up an online complaints form’
The online form was a temporary measure removed on Saturday around 90 minutes after normal programming resumed at 2pm that day, the BBC told MailOnline
Pictured, a look at BBC scheduling dedicated to the news of Prince Philip’s death
Among those taking the broadcaster to task was Simon McCoy, who has left the BBC
Blanket coverage turns off viewers
Channel 4’s Gogglebox was the most watched show on Friday as blanket tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh across the BBC and ITV made viewers switch off.
BBC1 and BBC2 dropped their planned schedules following the announcement of Prince Philip’s death, as did ITV.
BBC1 lost 6 per cent of its audience on Friday evening compared to the same night a week before, according to analysis by industry website Deadline. It found BBC2 viewers were down by 65 per cent, while ITV’s audience fell by 60 per cent.
Gogglebox was the highest-rated show with almost 4.2 million viewers. Channel 4 mostly kept its existing programming.
A BBC Panorama special on Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana has been pulled from tonight’s schedule. A spokesman declined to say when it would now be shown.
The BBC has defended its decision-making, proclaiming: ‘We are proud of our coverage and the role we play during moments of national significance’.
Today the broadcaster again told MailOnline it would only reveal how many complaints it had received in its fortnightly bulletin, due to be published on Thursday – and only then if more than 100 complaints were made.
The online form was a temporary measure removed on Saturday around 90 minutes after normal programming resumed at 2pm that day, it said.
A spokesperson yesterday also rejected claims that it had offered ‘grief counselling’ to its journalistic staff following news of the duke’s death.
The BBC insisted that it was providing ‘a general support service that all responsible news organisations have’, adding: ‘We have a general support service that is always available and there is no specific offer related to recent events.’
On Friday, the corporation said it was ‘providing special coverage across all BBC networks to mark [Prince Philip’s] life of extraordinary public service and planned scheduling has been suspended’.
Former BBC anchor Mr McCoy stuck the boot in, tweeting: ‘BBC1 and BBC2 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 much-anticipated MasterChef final, which was due to air on BBC One at 8.30pm, did not air, while the programme aired a special show called HRH The Duke of Edinburgh Remembered after the News at Six. That was followed by A Tribute to HRH Duke of Edinburgh at 9pm before the News at Ten.
Taking to Twitter, social media users complained about the BBC’s coverage of news of Philip’s death. ‘Wall to wall coverage on every single channel is annoying and unnecessary,’ one said. ‘There is other important news.
‘And some people might appreciate some other TV. I’d bet Prince Philip would not have approved of such a fuss!’
Another said: ‘I do get for some people it’s nationally a big deal. At the personal level I understand that the family has lost a husband and a father. I sympathise. But does the @bbc really need to fill both BBC1 and 2 with the same coverage’.
Twitter users lashed out at the BBC for cancelling its programming, with one person calling the coverage ‘hysterical’, ‘unhinged’ and akin to ‘North Korea’
The Queen and the duke watching a flypast of Spitfire & Hurricane aircraft on July 10, 2015
Philip has served Britain since his youth and the world is mourning his death at Windsor Castle, with the Royal Family releasing this photo and tribute shortly after his death
BBC postpones Panorama probe into Martin Bashir’s Princess Diana interview and ‘will not show it until after Prince Philip’s funeral’
The Panorama probe on how the BBC’s current religious affairs editor secured his interview with Diana – effectively an investigation into itself – was reportedly due to air on Monday night in a 30-minute prime time slot.
But sources now claim that a decision was taken on Friday following news of Prince Philip‘s death at Windsor Castle to postpone the screening, with a new slot to be found in the schedules for the programme.
They told the Telegraph that there was ‘no way’ the BBC could run the investigation into the 1995 interview on Monday, given the fallout from it helped to speed up the divorce of Diana from Prince Charles.
‘It was due out then but a decision was made within minutes of the Duke’s death to postpone the broadcast,’ they said. ‘There’s no new date yet but it will now wait until after the Duke’s funeral and will run at some point after that.’
The Panorama programme, when it is eventually broadcast, is expected to be highly critical of Bashir, who is accused of faking a bank statement which was then shown to Earl Spencer, the late princess’ brother.
‘@BBC output has descended into surrealism,’ one Twitter user remarked. ‘Every single channel broadcasting the exact same rolling programme.’
Others defended the BBC, with one saying the broadcaster is ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’. Another said: ‘It’s just for one day’.
The National Anthem accompanied the announcement from Buckingham Palace, while journalists across TV networks switched to black outfits as a mark of respect.
At 12.09pm on BBC One, an episode of Paramedics on Scene was abruptly paused as the screen faded to black, before being replaced by silence and a screen reading ‘News Report’. Presenter Martine Croxall then told viewers: ‘We are interrupting our normal programmes to bring you an important announcement.’
The newsreader appeared to choke up with emotion as she began reading the official statement from the Palace and the scores of tributes that flooded in subsequently.
Eagle-eyed viewers noticed Ms Croxall donned a black cardigan for the announcement, which she had not been wearing on the BBC’s rolling news channel just minutes earlier when she first broke the news.
She also removed a piece of jewellery she was previously wearing around her neck for the BBC One statement.
The corporation’s Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell was also wearing a black suit and tie as he appeared in the studio, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson also in the same colour as he made a statement outside Downing Street.
Channel Four and Channel 5 also halted their planned run of lunchtime programmes to announce the news.
ITV also made schedule changes following the news. Entertainment show This Morning, which was being presented by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, was interrupted and Loose Women was scrapped.
Holmes cut mid-way through an interview with actor Alan Halsall to say: ‘Sorry I have to interrupt you for some very, very important news because we now, viewers, have to end This Morning and go straight to the ITV newsroom for more.’
ITV newsreader Lucrezia Millarini then appeared on the screen to announce the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. She told viewers: ‘Good afternoon we are breaking into programmes to bring you an announcement from the Royal Household.
‘In the last few moments we have received the following significant statement.’
She then proceeded to read the statement from Buckingham Palace which said: ‘It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Others defended the BBC, with one saying the broadcaster is ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’. Another said: ‘It’s just for one day’
The MasterChef final, was due to air on Friday night on BBC One, but was pulled from being broadcast due to rescheduling. Pictured, judges John Torode, Gregg Wallace
ITV news’ presenter was also dressed in black as she interrupted the channel’s regular schedule to break the news
Sky News’ presenter was also dressed in black as she interrupted the channel’s regular schedule to break the news
‘His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.’
The channel said ITV News will broadcast continuous coverage throughout the afternoon ‘celebrating Prince Philip’s life, his unique contribution to British history, and looking back at his decades of service to the Queen and the country’.
At 4pm it aired a specially commissioned film, Prince Philip: Duke of Edinburgh, narrated by James Mates, which used personal testimony and archive content to tell the story of Philip’s life and times.
At 6pm ITV aired regional and national news, which covered reaction to the news.
An hour later, Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield hosted a live programme called Prince Philip, Fondly Remembered, where the presenters talked to those who knew him about his personality and his passions.
Royal editor Chris Ship presented documentary special, Prince Philip: A Royal Life at 9pm, in which he visited key locations around the world to tell the story of his life, before an extended News at Ten at 10pm.
Channel 4, meanwhile, aired an obituary programme at 4pm and featured an extended 90-minute news broadcast at 7pm.
Channel 4’s usual peak time schedule resumed with The Circle final at 10pm.