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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Was Pope coverage over the top?
Hundreds of people have phoned or e-mailed to complain about BBC News' blanket coverage of the Pope's death and the aftermath.

Pope John Paul II
Did the Pope's death warrant so much coverage on TV and radio?

While many people also contacted the BBC to congratulate news teams on the coverage, they were swamped by those who thought it was over the top.

We asked Head of Television News Roger Mosey to answer some of the comments we've received.

Q: Why were we saturated with coverage of the Pope's death? What relevance does this have to the millions of non-Catholics in Britain? Does the story warrant this excessive coverage?

A: The Pope was a major figure in the Catholic Church - the third-longest serving pontiff in history, and already being called John Paul The Great - but he was also a significant force in the history of the late 20th Century.

As a Pole, he helped bring about the collapse of communism in his native land, and also stood up against the Soviet empire. I therefore have no doubt that his passing merited extensive coverage.

Our audiences seem to agree: News 24 was watched last week by 7.2m people - the highest figure this year. Network news bulletins also attracted more viewers than usual.

Q: Didn't the coverage of the Pope's death break BBC guidelines on impartiality? All you did was praise the man without debating his views on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. How about some objective reporting?

Queue to see Pope lying in state at St Peter's Basilica
Many people thought the BBC's coverage struck the right balance

A: Over the years we have reported objectively on the Catholic Church: its successes, but also more awkward areas such as the controversy over Aids in Africa and paedophile priests.

However, I'm not convinced obituary programming is the right place to "debate" abortion. The church properly has its own moral values, and its leader reflects those.

Q: Why did you need to send so many 'big names' to cover the event? Isn't the BBC supposed to be cutting down on duplication?

A: The BBC has to provide cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a multiplicity of networks - television and radio.

Our people work hard, but they can't be expected to stay on air permanently!

So Huw Edwards did the Ten O'Clock News on Friday, news bulletins through Saturday and all the major network special programming - while Dermot Murnaghan presented Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, and went on to do a specially extended Sunday News on BBC One.

Other correspondents similarly worked hard, and we were pleased by all the e-mails and phone calls thanking them for the quality of the coverage.

Q: Why didn't TV news presenters wear black ties as a mark of respect to report the news?

This is a difficult one, and I know different people will have different views.

For the announcement of a death, we normally wear black only for a UK head of state or similar; and the people who complained about excessive coverage would most likely have been even more put out if we'd worn black for the death of someone they would consider to be a foreign religious leader.

Our guidance to presenters for obituary programming in general is to wear sober clothing, but not black.


The following reflect the balance of comments you sent to NewsWatch.

I think you are spending far too much airtime covering the decline of the Pope. Most people in this country probably don't care very much other than general human concern. Why don't you spend our money on covering something domestic and more worthwhile?
Neal Wright, UK

Would it be impertinent to ask when the BBC is going to start broadcasting news again?
Valerie Gardner, UK

I am a little bit vexed about the reporting of the death of the head of the Roman Catholic Church. What has happened to impartiality and objectivity? "He...defeated other great evils of that century" - This person is being credited with (almost) saving the human race and defeating communism and so on. Whilst I understand this is the kind of things that catholic Christians want to hear, it is far for being an objective and lacks impartiality.
Brian Butterworth, UK

Thanks so much for the wonderful coverage you're giving to the Pope. I feel like I can share with those keeping watch in St Peter's Square.
Celine, UK

Who decides the news priorities at the BBC? An 84-year-old man is dying and we have wall-to-wall saturation coverage of the event, with endless, pointless speculation and guesswork. What will it be like when he actually dies? Is it right to devote a full half of news bulletin time to this event? There are terrible injustices going on in other parts of the world - like Darfur. Doesn't that merit far more attention than the natural death of an old man, however much respected he may be by the adherents of his faith?
John D Brand, UK

How many BBC people does it take to cover the death of one very old man, albeit the Pope. Jeremy Bowen, who appears have been in Rome for some time, has been joined by a Newsnight reporter, BBC TV news reporter and probably by others from the Today programme, Broadcasting House and Radio News. Is Jeremy Bowen not considered capable of reporting single- handed such an important event?
Diane E Flood, England

Far too much coverage of the Pope's illness and far too many BBC people there - mouthing platitudes or interviewing each other. Far too much!
Anne Woolley, UK

Why aren't BBC news presenters wearing black ties as a mark of mourning for the Pope? Have you not learnt your lesson from the Queen Mother's death? Other channels across the world, including Sky and ITV, have done so. Once again you are showing insensitivity and a dumbing down of events.
Mark Grimley, London, UK

As usual BBC coverage of the Pope's death has been excellent
John Smith, Wales

Sirs, I wish to congratulate you on the special news report from the Vatican in your news tonight. It was just beautiful and I loved it.
William Houlihan, Ireland

I feel your way of providing the news of the death of Pope John Paul II has not been impartial. I mean no disrespect, but there was and is a huge amount of people on this earth who strongly disagree on his actions. In my personal opinion, he created distrust, hatred and anger while working towards goals that seemed very political at times. I just felt saddened that you chose to leave out this viewpoint. A quick side note in the middle of one or two sentences was not enough, I believe.
Kyuu Eturautti, Finland

The late Pope was, of course, a major world figure but the coverage of his passing has really been "over the top".
Terence Reed, UK

Give us a break. This non-stop coverage of the Pope's death is completely over the top. You are reheating the old stuff endlessly. It is a total bore.
Bill Williams, UK

Seems everything else has been put on hold since the Pope died I am sick and fed up with hearing about it, he is not the only person to die and not everyone agreed with his views or is religious. I know it is a sad day for many people around the world but enough is enough.
Melvyn Green, UK

Why you are giving blanket coverage to the death of the Pope? Yes it is news, yes it is sad, but should all of your customers be subjected to wall to wall reportage on TV and, it seems, all your main radio stations. This started days ago and is unbelievable. What is going on?
Howard Parsons, England

Please give us a rest from your coverage of the Pope's death. As usual BBC is going totally over the top and there are other things happening in the world we would like to hear about. BBC One had a continuous one-and-a-half hours of interviews. In spite of your reporter in Rome then saying that nothing was happening we were promised a return in a few minutes when, I presume, nothing would still be happening. Please give us a break!
Mr M C Lovell, UK

As usual BBC coverage of the Pope's death has been excellent. It has been interesting particularly to hear the views of the people from around the world who are now in Rome.
John Smith, Wales

Would it be impertinent to ask when the BBC is going to start broadcasting news again?
Valerie Gardner, UK




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