The BBC was in a no-win situation on Friday after the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The corporation has its internal protocols for the handling of Royal deaths. These are regularly reviewed.
Inevitably some will believe the level of news coverage was excessive. However it isn’t hard to defend this.
The death of the husband of the monarch who has been a vital part of national life for 70 years is a major story.
As well as the news itself, there will naturally be a place for more considered coverage such as the documentary celebrating his life shown at 9pm that night.
ITV went for a similar approach and abandoned its normal schedule.
It is not hard to defend and explain the changes to BBC One on Friday – it is the corporation’s flagship service which is at the centre of national life and not merely a source of amusement or diversion like some other channels.
What is much more debatable is whether in this day and age it was appropriate for BBC Two and other channels to either simulcast BBC One or remain off air.
This harks back to an age of deference and a time when a Royal death would have meant national mourning.
Naturally certain programmes may have been inappropriate on Friday – anything flippant may have been in bad taste and innocent comments about the Royal Family could have slipped through in, say, a documentary or drama.
But does that mean that the final of MasterChef, Gardeners’ World or a football match were out of order?
From a pres fan’s point of view, it provided a chance to see the generic BBC ident but that was probably the least of the day’s concerns.
When Diana, Princess of Wales died, BBC Two resumed some normal programmes in the early afternoon and carried a mix of its own programmes and some displaced from BBC One that evening.
After the Queen Mother’s death, the BBC was stung by criticism about the tone of some coverage and the quick return of some normal output. (Probably made worse by the struggle to find the appropriate way to use the BBC One dancers, introduced the previous day.)
There is so much to consider. The public has never had more choice – digital channels, Netflix and catch-up services.
The public hold a range of opinions about both the Royal Family and the institution of monarchy itself. And in the current crisis, the role of broadcasting in providing some comfort and sense of normality should not be downplayed.
The modern BBC has faced criticism from some that it is too politically correct or even part of Woke culture.
At a guess, the new director-general also appreciates the corporation’s core audience and supporters who would expect it to react in a particular way to a Royal death.
The balance of judgement is probably that a disappointed viewer on Friday will soon forget about any irritation while misjudging what was expected by some could anger some MPs and traditionalists and have real consequences.
Still it is not an easy judgement to make or balance to get right.
PICTURE: BBC ident. COPYRIGHT: BBC.
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