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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Sissons hits back at critics
Peter Sissons
Peter Sissons's choice of tie has been criticised
BBC newsreader Peter Sissons has spoken out against press critics who said his handling of the Queen Mother's death was "insensitive".

Mr Sissons did not wear a black tie as the news broke, a move that has featured prominently in criticisms of the corporation's reporting.

But the veteran newsreader said he had received a large number of telephone calls and e-mails from viewers praising Saturday's coverage.

"I think it is sad that at a time like this that a few newspapers have devoted so much time and energy to criticising the BBC," he said.

The Hon Margaret Rhodes
The Hon Margaret Rhodes was interviewed by Sissons
He also defended the tone of his interview with the Queen Mother's niece, Margaret Rhodes, which was criticised by the Daily Mail.

One newspaper had characterised the interview as "brutish and insensitive", he said.

"But I feel no fair and reasonable viewer who saw that interview, which was conducted respectfully and with sensitivity, would recognise the lurid language used to discredit it - and the BBC," he added.

Newspapers reported on Wednesday that Mr Sissons said he was unhappy at the press coverage he was receiving, with the Daily Telegraph quoting him as saying: "The reporter should not become part of the story."

And in a full-page editorial, The Sun strongly condemned critics of the BBC's reporting of the royal death, and described Sissons as a "professional".

Prince Charles' tribute was recorded by ITN
Prince Charles's tribute was filmed by ITN
The newspaper accused "parts of the country's illiberal, hysterical media" of suffering an "attack of temporary madness".

Earlier this week the Daily Mail 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.

But the BBC defended Mr Sissons's choice of a burgundy tie, which it said was in keeping with guidelines stating that presenters should wear "sombre" colours for the announcement.

And on Tuesday a senior member of the Queen's staff wrote to the BBC assuring the corporation that Buckingham Palace had no complaint with how the death of the Queen Mother was reported.

Some members of the press had reported that members of the royal family were angry at the tone of the BBC's coverage and "intrusive" questions.

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

  Click here to read his comments in full

The Queen's communications secretary, Simon Walker, wrote to Mark Byford, the BBC's director of World Service, who is deputising for director general Greg Dyke while he is on holiday, saying there were no complaints.

Mr Walker 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.

The BBC's deputy director of news, Mark Damazer, added that the corporation's coverage was "excellent" and that BBC programmes "rose to the occasion and found a tone and historical sweep".

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:

03 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Dimblebys head royal coverage
02 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Palace backs BBC over 'royal row'
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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