The BBC won’t cover royal deaths the same way after Prince Philip’s passing

When Prince Philip died in April, we heard from British Celebitches that the coverage on British television was way over-the-top. Like, 24-7 coverage akin to the death of a monarch or world leader. No one was saying that there should be zero coverage at all, but the wall-to-wall coverage for days on end just rubbed people the wrong way. Now, it will be like that when Queen Elizabeth passes. All of the British and Commonwealth TV stations have a plan in place for what happens when Liz passes and it’s just as macabre as you would think. But maybe those TV stations are updating their plans after using Philip’s death as a dry-run for coverage. Apparently, the BBC will make changes to how they cover royal deaths now:

The BBC wants ‘lessons to be learned’ after its coverage of Prince Philip’s death prompted a record number of complaints and low audience figures, its boss says. Tim Davie’s comments suggest the corporation could consider devoting less content across its platforms to the death of a Royal Family member in the future.

The BBC received a record 109,741 complaints from the public over its wall-to-wall coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on April 9 after clearing its schedules. The figure beat the previous record of Jerry Springer: The Opera which drew 63,000 complaints in 2005; and Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s infamous prank call to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs, which drew 42,000 complaints in 2008. And Mr Davie admitted in a board meeting that viewer numbers on the night of Philip’s death were ‘lower than expected’ at 2.6million across BBC One and BBC Two.

It came after news programmes replaced EastEnders and the MasterChef final, BBC Four was taken off air completely and normal radio schedules were also changed. During the meeting on April 22, which was reported by The Times today, Mr Davie said the coverage had ‘reflected the role of the BBC as the national broadcaster’.

According to the minutes, he added: ‘The response of production teams had been accomplished, both in the implementation of the technical plans and editorial.’

The minutes also said Mr Davie praised the audience for the funeral coverage on April 17 being ‘very strong delivering a peak of over 13million viewers’. But he added: ‘Viewing on the night of the announcement was lower than expected at 2.6million across BBC One and BBC Two. The decision to simulcast coverage across BBC One and BBC Two had resulted in a record number of complaints.’ The minutes concluded: ‘The Executive were looking at lessons to be learned. The Board thanked the Executive for the high quality of the coverage.’

The BBC even put a dedicated form on its website so viewers could complain about the coverage of Philip’s death because it was being swamped by complaints – although this was then removed when the number started to fall.

[From The Daily Mail]

From a broadcasting perspective, I think the BBC tried to use Philip’s death as a trial for what they’ll do when QEII passes, as I said. It’s likely that the Queen’s death will mark this particular end of an era, and beyond that we’ll see. And of course the funeral got good ratings – I was surprised that all of the American cable news channels covered it live, but it became such a spectacle because of the advance hype and because Prince Harry came back to the UK for it. That should have been the focus, the funeral and simple news updates throughout the week on what the family was doing, etc. Instead, the BBC overestimated the public’s desire to see the canonization of a problematic 99-year-old man.

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