BBC pulls Prince Philip online form after complaints hit peak

Ben Quinn
·2-min read
Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP
Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

The BBC has taken down an online form used to process complaints about blanket coverage of Prince Philip’s death after the number of complaints reached a peak.

Planned scheduling has been back in place since 2pm on Saturday, after BBC One and BBC Two cleared their schedules to simulcast more than 24 hours of programmes about the Duke of Edinburgh.

The corporation’s decision to axe Friday night staples in favour of pre-recorded tributes prompted so many complaints it opened the dedicated form on its website to process them. The use of such a form was a standard BBC approach to deal with complaint volumes on a temporary basis, the Guardian understands.

While the broadcaster would not say how many complaints it received, it is understood the rate at which they were coming in had started to fall.

A fortnightly bulletin of all complaints is due to be published on Wednesday. The broadcaster has yet to publish full details of its programming around the duke’s funeral on 17 April.

Viewers switched off their TVs in droves after broadcasters aired blanket coverage of Philip’s death, audience figures revealed on Saturday. Along with the removal of shows including EastEnders, Gardeners’ World and the final of MasterChef, BBC Four was taken off air and replaced with a notice urging viewers to switch to BBC One. It had been due to show the England women’s football team play France in an international friendly

Ratings for BBC One, traditionally the channel to which Britons turn at moments of national significance, were down 6% on the previous week, according to analysis of viewing figures by Deadline.

BBC Two lost two-thirds of its audience, with an average of only 340,000 people tuning in at any time between 7pm and 11pm. ITV also experienced a drop after it ditched its Friday night schedule to broadcast tributes to the duke.

The BBC had faced criticism both for the scale of its coverage and also for setting up the form.

Chris Mullin, the author and former minister, tweeted: “The BBC making a big mistake with its North Korean-style coverage of Prince Philip. Can only alienate more licence payers at a time when it needs all the public support it can get.”

Ben Harris-Quinney, the chairman of the conservative Bow Group thinktank, accused the corporation of “prompting a response” by establishing the complaint form.

“When the BBC put out things that are more in accordance with figures of the left, no such opportunity to complain is promoted. It is quite clear that there is an imbalance,” he said.

Watch: The wonderful life of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh