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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 10:55 GMT
Was election coverage overkill?
By Matt Holder
Editor, BBC NewsWatch website

The BBC's reporting of the US elections drew scores of complaints about excessive coverage, over-staffing and a waste of licence-fee payers' cash. But BBC News says it was vital to cover the story in the way it did.

George and Laura Bush
President Bush and first lady Laura were all smiles - but the BBC 's coverage annoyed many people

The US Presidential Election was a hugely significant global news event, particularly when there are so many issues which are dividing the American electorate, including Iraq.

The election was of interest to many licence payers who have come to expect authoritative coverage and analysis of important news events from the BBC.

This is why we provided reports from correspondents on the campaign trail with George W Bush and John Kerry, results from key states and analysis of the results as they came through.

The BBC is challenged to reflect a mixture of international and domestic news but naturally if a story occurs which is of major importance then we will devote significant time to cover it.

Whatever one may feel about America, it cannot be doubted that the position of President is of significant international importance considering the influence America has in an economic, political and cultural sense.

We believe the importance of this election warranted extensive coverage across the BBC¿s range of services, on television, radio and online.

As for staffing, the BBC sent 136 staff to the US from the UK and other locations to cover the election.

This included presenting and technical staff and no other UK operation - broadcaster or print publication - was faced with either the same requirement for equipment, or the demands for coverage.

We supplied output for a whole range of programmes and channels across our television, radio and online services.

BBC News had no extra funding for the coverage and the cost came out of the regular news budget.

It was very much in our interests to keep costs to a minimum and this is why resources were shared, with presenters and production staff working across different programmes.

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