BBC responds to complaints over Prince Philip funeral coverage

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·3-min read

The BBC has defended itself after reportedly copping more than 110,000 complaints about its coverage of the death of Prince Philip, who passed away at Windsor Castle at the age of 99.

Viewers in Britain were up in arms after the national broadcaster cleared all scheduled programs, including the highly-anticipated MasterChef finale, to report on the Duke of Edinburgh's death on April 9.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh smiles during a visit to the headquarters of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force
The BBCs coverage of Prince Philip's death reportedly received 110,000 complaints. Photo: Getty Images

'Some viewers were unhappy'

The BBC also dedicated several hours of coverage to the prince's funeral at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on 17 April, which was viewed by over 11 million people.

The BBC said in a statement: "The funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, 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 the impact this had on the billed BBC One schedule.

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"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.

"We are grateful for all feedback, and we always listen to the response from our audiences."

Barrage of complaints

On the day of the duke's passing, the BBC Four channel was reportedly taken off air completely with viewers being greeted with a message urging them to switch over for a "major news report".

It’s believed so many complaints began rolling in that the BBC were forced to set up a dedicated webpage for viewers to lodge their dissatisfaction at its coverage.

A Bearer Party of Grenadier Guards carry Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's coffin (draped in his Royal Standard Flag and bearing his Royal Navy cap, sword and a bouquet of lilies, white roses, freesia and sweet peas) out of the State Entrance of Windsor Castle ahead of his funeral procession to St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England.
Prince Philip's coffin is carried to a customised Land Rover ahead of his funeral procession to St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 17, 202. Photo: Getty Images.

"We are proud of our coverage and the role we play during moments of national significance," a BBC spokesperson said a few days after Prince Philip's death.

If the reported figure of 110k complaints is correct, it would be a British TV record, beating the previous high of 63k complaints sparked by the BBC's screening of Jerry Springer: The Musical in 2005.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a black coat, hat and face mask takes her seat alone during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England.
Queen Elizabeth II sits alone in St George's Chapel for her husband's funeral. Photo: Getty Images.

Funeral for a prince

Prince Philip was farewelled with a ceremonial royal funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor in the afternoon of April 17. The late duke's son, Prince Charles, and his grandsons, Princes William and Harry walked behind his coffin which was borne by a purpose-built Land Rover of his own design.

The event was scaled down due to the UK's COVID-19 restrictions, and just 30 members of the royal family were permitted inside the chapel for the service.

The Queen was forced to sit alone to maintain social distancing measures, as was Prince Harry who had flown in from the US to farewell his grandfather. His pregnant wife, Meghan Markle, remained at their California home as she was not medically cleared for travel.

The Queen has since celebrated her 95th birthday — her first without her husband of over 70 years — by releasing a somber statement in memory of Prince Philip.

Additional reporting by Sarah Carty.

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