The BBC’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Queen’s death has avoided the mass of complaints that accompanied its broadcast when Prince Philip died, although broadcasters are returning to regular programs as viewing figures begin to fall.
The BBC’s internal complaints figures show it received around 670 objections from people who felt its coverage of the Queen’s death last Thursday was exaggerated, compared with 100,000 who objected to its version of her husband’s death. Sources said the number had increased in recent days but remained relatively low, with an official tally expected to be released later this week.
In contrast, other small aspects of the BBC’s coverage have attracted public attention. More than 100 people complained that two journalists in the newsroom appeared to be standing behind Huw Edwards as the presenter announced the monarch’s death on Thursday night.
One viewer said: “It was beyond offensive to see two young women in the BBC newsroom standing up and filming Huw Edwards on their phones while he made the important announcement of the Queen’s death… what disrespect and you are cultivating immature stupidity in the newsroom.”
And in a reversal of the complaints the BBC received when former newsreader Peter Sissons announced the Queen Mother’s death wearing a burgundy tie, this time some of the complaints were about Edwards wearing a black tie for several hours before the monarch’s death . officially announced.
The ratings have started to drop from the huge numbers that tuned in for the death announcement last week. This attracted a combined television audience of 16 million – the vast majority watching the BBC. By comparison, BBC One’s audience for King Charles’ official coronation on Saturday morning reached 6 million viewers.
While BBC One remains largely focused on rolling coverage of royal news, EastEnders has been allowed to return to the channel at a later date. ITV continues to devote its daytime programming to rolling coverage, but has brought back more of its regular evening showing. Commercial TV stations have also brought back advertising, with Channel 4 and Channel 5 largely sticking to their usual schedules. Sky News consistently attracts more than 300,000 viewers on Sunday – well above its usual level.
The viewing figures dwarf a wider decline in TV audiences, supporting the premise that audiences will continue to tune in to broadcasts for big events – although increasing numbers are using streaming services such as the BBC’s iPlayer, which are not immediately counted in official viewing figures.
Broadcasters must now prepare for next Monday’s funeral, which will be attended by heads of state from around the world. Declared a public holiday, the funeral is expected to attract one of the biggest television audiences of the year. This led to jokes among reporters who wanted to be included in the coverage – and sadness among those excluded, such as Andrew Marr who was cut from a BBC documentary he had made before leaving the broadcaster.