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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Palace backs BBC over 'royal row'
Peter Sissons has been criticised for his burgundy tie
Peter Sissons has been criticised for his burgundy tie
A senior member of the Queen's staff has written to the BBC to assure the corporation that Buckingham Palace has no complaint with the way the death of the Queen Mother was reported.

Some newspapers have reported that members of the Royal Family were angry at the tone of the BBC's coverage and "intrusive" questions.

Prince Charles' tribute was recorded by ITN
Prince Charles's tribute was filmed by ITN
But the Queen's communications secretary, Simon Walker, has written to Mark Byford, the BBC's director of World Service, who is deputising for director general Greg Dyke while he is on holiday, with the assurance there are no complaints.

Mr Walker said the palace recognised that difficult decisions about how to report such events were down to each broadcaster.

He also confirmed that the decision to invite ITN to film Prince Charles' personal tribute was not down to any problem the prince had with the BBC's coverage.

Such invitations are split between broadcasters, he said, and it was ITN's turn because the BBC filmed the prince's tribute to Princess Margaret.


Mark Damazer
BBC deputy director of news, Mark Damazer, defends the BBC's coverage

  Click here to read his comments in full

A spokeswoman for Prince Charles earlier told BBC News Online that the prince himself did not make the decision.

"The BBC filmed Princess Margaret's tribute and in the interest of fairness, ITN were asked to cover this tribute," she said.

"It's a very straightforward pool arrangement by which all the broadcasters got exactly the same access to material at exactly the same time."

The Daily Mail had said the BBC "betrayed the British people" with its coverage, while The Times reported that the BBC ordered its presenters not to wear black ties.

The tie worn by news presenter Peter Sissons was burgundy.

But the BBC's coverage was defended as "excellent" by the BBC's deputy director of news, Mark Damazer.


I think the coverage both on television and on radio was excellent

Mark Damazer
BBC deputy director of news
Mr Damazer said he was "absolutely proud" of the BBC's television, radio and online services that went on air after the news broke on Saturday.

BBC programmes "rose to the occasion and found a tone and historical sweep", he said.

"In the round, I think the coverage both on television and on radio was excellent and absolutely commensurate with the BBC's standards," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I feel absolutely proud of the coverage, and support the extraordinary professional contribution from all the people involved."

Queen Mother
The Queen Mother married into the royal family in 1923
But the BBC has received more than 1,000 calls concerning its coverage of the royal death.

"The vast majority of calls received were from people angry about changes to the schedule to accommodate the coverage," a spokesman told BBC News Online.

There was an equal amount of calls about the coverage being not reverential enough or there having been too much coverage, he said.

Viewing figures have shown that BBC One's programmes on the Queen Mother on Saturday evening attracted about five million viewers, beating the figures for ITV1.

An average of five million tuned in for a special news bulletin and a tribute to the Queen Mother on BBC One between 1745 and 2100 GMT on Saturday, with 5.5 million people watching another news programme at 2100 GMT.

The BBC has announced that veteran anchorman David Dimbleby will head the presenting team leading up to the Queen Mother's funeral on Tuesday, 9 April.

Coverage of events over the next week would "not disappoint the licence payer" and would live up to the BBC's "extremely high professional standards", Mr Damazer said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Deputy Director of News Mark Damazer
"I thought the programme was fine and rose to the occasion"
Daily Mail political sketch writer Quentin Letts
"There was an operation which was journalistically sub-par"
See also:

02 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
BBC's royal defence in full
01 Apr 02 | UK
Prince's tribute in full
01 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Schedules resume after royal coverage
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