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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
BBC's royal defence in full
The BBC has been criticised by some newspapers
The BBC has been criticised by some newspapers
The BBC's deputy director of news, Mark Damazer was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme by Edward Stourton about the BBC's coverage of the death of the Queen Mother.

The BBC's news shows had been criticised by some sections of the press for being insensitive.

Mark Damazer: I'm extremely surprised at the construction put on those programmes by the Daily Mail and others.

Edward Stourton:You thought that programme was what you would expect after all those years of rehearsals of this event?

Mark Damazer
Mark Damazer: The BBC "would not disappoint the licence payer"
MD: Yes, I thought the programme was fine and rose to the occasion. It found a tone and a historical sweep and expressed an affection for the Queen Mother's contribution to public life over many, many decades, and did it all in a thoroughly professional manner using the BBC's presenters and correspondents.

ES: As you know, a lot of people don't agree with that and I'll just quote you something said by a senior official at Buckingham Palace, quoted on the front page of The Times today: "The whole family is disappointed and hurt at the disrespectful tone and length of the coverage."

MD: Well, I find that particularly puzzling because in the last few hours we've got hold of various officials in the royal household and asked them whether or not the reports in the newspapers are true. And they are not saying that they are true.

What the Palace official is saying to us is that there have been no complaints - either formally or informally - about the coverage of the Queen Mother's death and they are happy with all the broadcasters' coverage.

Edward Stourton interviewed Mr Damazer
Edward Stourton interviewed Mr Damazer
ES: So are you saying that The Times is lying with its headline "Palace fury at BBC's black tie ban"?

MD: Well, I have no idea where The Times and The Mail have got their particular stories from and I dare say that they spoke to somebody somewhere, but all I can say is that we have spoken to more than one senior royal official this morning telling us quite clearly that there have been no complaints about the coverage.

ES: The evidence that they draw this from is the simple fact that the Prince of Wales chose to give his interview to ITV rather than the BBC.

MD: We've asked specifically about that and they categorically repudiate the notion that that was some kind of a snub, and the way these things go is that sometimes those pooled facilities go to ITN and sometimes the BBC.

ES: Oh come on, on these sorts of occasions you'd expect the Palace to turn to the BBC, the nation's broadcaster, the voice of the nation.

Getting the tone right is of course extremely difficult

Mark Damazer
MD: Not at all. I think the important thing about the interview was that it was made available to all broadcasters on an equal basis. The BBC chose to run a little bit of it very quickly on BBC One, and then twice during the course of the evening we ran the interview in full, which in my view was the entirely correct and appropriate thing to do.

ES: So you feel that the BBC has absolutely nothing whatsoever to apologise for? Doing it all again, you'd have done it in exactly the same way?

MD: Yes. I think that clearly in live coverage there are moments where the particular way in which something is done might be different. A link may be a little bit quick or slow to be established, it may take a little bit longer or shorter to get a particular location available for a broadcaster, but in the round I think the coverage both on television and on radio was excellent and absolutely commensurate with the BBC's standards.

ES: A lot of people will be astonished to hear you say that. You know what the press has been like over the last couple of days. A lot of people say - at least a little humility, at least admit that you misjudged the tone just a tiny bit.

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

Mark Damazer
MD: I don't accept that, Ed. I think that getting the tone right is of course extremely difficult. What I heard on the radio and saw and listened to on the television was a huge amount of affection - tribute after tribute quite appropriately made to the Queen Mother's enormous contribution both during the war, before the war and after the war. A real testimony to her joie de vivre, her ability to mix with all classes of people, and I heard that from the mouths of our own presenters, I heard it from the many contributors that the BBC had on those programmes.

ES: So je ne regrette rien?

MD: I feel absolutely proud of the coverage and support the extraordinary professional contribution from all the people involved and would like to say that that coverage will continue over the next few days right up to the funeral.

There will be many special programmes, both on radio and on television and I'm sure and very much hope that they will be commensurate with the BBC's extremely high professional standards and that we that won't disappoint the licence payer.

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:

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