United Kingdom

BBC refuses to reveal how many people complained about its blanket TV coverage of Prince Philip

The BBC has refused to reveal how many complaints it received for its blanket TV coverage following the death of Prince Philip - as viewing figures plunged by two thirds in a week and staff were offered grief counselling following the Duke's passing. 

BBC Two viewers plunged by 64 per cent compared to last week while BBC One's fell by six per cent from 2.56million last Friday to 2.41million between 7pm and 11pm on Friday.

The broadcaster cancelled its scheduled programming across BBC One, BBC Two and the News channel to air specials about Prince Philip, who passed away at Windsor Castle on Friday.

But it set up a complaints form after admitting its wall-to-wall coverage of the death of the nation's longest-serving consort had been criticised as 'over the top'.

In the complaints tab of its website, the corporation said: 'We're receiving complaints about too much TV coverage of the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

'Please enter your email address below to register a complaint about this - we'll then send you the BBC's response as soon as it is available.'

Despite widespread criticism - including from former News at One presenter Simon McCoy, the BBC has refused to reveal how many complaints it has received until they are published in its fortnightly complaints bulletin - which will be published on Thursday.

The broadcaster also refused to comment on reports in the Sunday Times that journalists had been offered grief counselling following the Duke of Edinburgh's death. 

The BBC was last night forced to create an online complaints form after it was criticised for providing 'too much TV coverage' of news of Prince Philip's death 

In its complaints page, the corporation said: 'We're receiving complaints about too much TV coverage of the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh'. However, the BBC has declined to say how many complaints it has received

Pictured, a look at BBC scheduling dedicated to the news of Prince Philip's death

Among those taking the broadcaster to task was Simon McCoy, who quit the corporation last month 

Twitter users lashed out at the BBC for cancelling its programming. Among those taking the broadcaster to task was Simon McCoy, the hilariously indiscreet news presenter who quit the corporation last month.

'BBC1 and BBC2 showing the same thing,' Mr McCoy, formerly of the News at One, said. 'And presumably the News Channel too. Why? I know this is a huge event. But surely the public deserve a choice of programming?' 

Others called the coverage 'hysterical', 'unhinged' and akin to North Korea. One person complained it was 'over the top' and 'utterly ridiculous', while another claimed there was 'no need whatsoever to suspend programming'.

The BBC declined to comment when approached by MailOnline. Earlier it had explained: 'With the sad news that HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has died, there is now special coverage across all BBC networks to mark his life of extraordinary public service and planned scheduling has been suspended.'

The much-anticipated MasterChef final, which was due to air on BBC One at 8.30pm, did not air, while the programme aired a special show called HRH The Duke of Edinburgh Remembered after the Six O'Clock News. That was followed by A Tribute to HRH Duke of Edinburgh at 9pm before the BBC News at Ten. 

The tribute programme will be repeated at 11.30pm. BBC Two will mirror BBC One with the notable exception of Newsnight from 10.45 to 11.30pm.

BBC Four is suspended while Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live will continue with special programming reflecting the life of the royal.

Taking to Twitter, social media users complained about the BBC's coverage of news of Philip's death.

'Wall to wall coverage on every single channel is annoying and unnecessary,' one said. 'There is other important news. And some people might appreciate some other TV. I'd bet Prince Philip would not have approved of such a fuss!' 

Another said: 'I do get for some people it's nationally a big deal. At the personal level I understand that the family has lost a husband and a father. I sympathise. But does the @bbc really need to fill both BBC1 and 2 with the same coverage'.

'@BBC output has descended into surrealism,' one Twitter user remarked. 'Every single channel broadcasting the exact same rolling programme.'

Others defended the BBC, with one saying the broadcaster is 'damned if they do and damned if they don't'. Another said: 'It's just for one day'.  

The National Anthem accompanied the announcement from Buckingham Palace, while journalists across TV networks switched to black outfits as a mark of respect.

At 12.09pm on BBC One, an episode of Paramedics on Scene was abruptly paused as the screen faded to black, before being replaced by silence and a screen reading 'News Report'.

Presenter Martine Croxall then told viewers: 'We are interrupting our normal programmes to bring you an important announcement.'

The newsreader appeared to choke up with emotion as she began reading the official statement from the Palace and the scores of tributes that flooded in subsequently.

Eagle-eyed viewers noticed Ms Croxall donned a black cardigan for the announcement, which she had not been wearing on the BBC's rolling news channel just minutes earlier when she first broke the news. 

Twitter users lashed out at the BBC for cancelling its programming, with one person calling the coverage 'hysterical', 'unhinged' and akin to 'North Korea'

The Queen and the duke watching a flypast of Spitfire & Hurricane aircraft on July 10, 2015

Philip has served Britain since his youth and the world is mourning his death at Windsor Castle, with the Royal Family releasing this photo and tribute shortly after his death

She also removed a piece of jewellery she was previously wearing around her neck for the BBC One statement.

The corporation's Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell was also wearing a black suit and tie as he appeared in the studio, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson also in the same colour as he made a statement outside Downing Street.  

Channel Four and Channel 5 also halted their planned run of lunchtime programmes to announce the news. 

ITV also made schedule changes following the news.  Entertainment show This Morning, which was being presented by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, was interrupted and Loose Women was scrapped. 

Holmes cut mid-way through an interview with actor Alan Halsall to say: 'Sorry I have to interrupt you for some very, very important news because we now, viewers, have to end This Morning and go straight to the ITV newsroom for more.'

ITV newsreader Lucrezia Millarini then appeared on the screen to announce the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. She told viewers: 'Good afternoon we are breaking into programmes to bring you an announcement from the Royal Household. 

'In the last few moments we have received the following significant statement.'

She then proceeded to read the statement from Buckingham Palace which said: 'It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

Others defended the BBC, with one saying the broadcaster is 'damned if they do and damned if they don't'. Another said: 'It's just for one day'

The MasterChef final, was due to air on Friday night on BBC One, but was pulled from being broadcast due to rescheduling. Pictured, judges John Torode, Gregg Wallace

ITV news' presenter was also dressed in black as she interrupted the channel's regular schedule to break the news

Sky News' presenter was also dressed in black as she interrupted the channel's regular schedule to break the news

'His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.' 

The channel said ITV News will broadcast continuous coverage throughout the afternoon 'celebrating Prince Philip's life, his unique contribution to British history, and looking back at his decades of service to the Queen and the country'.  

At 4pm it aired a specially commissioned film, Prince Philip: Duke of Edinburgh, narrated by James Mates, which used personal testimony and archive content to tell the story of Philip's life and times.

At 6pm ITV aired regional and national news, which covered reaction to the news.

An hour later, Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield hosted a live programme called Prince Philip, Fondly Remembered, where the presenters talked to those who knew him about his personality and his passions.

Royal editor Chris Ship presented documentary special, Prince Philip: A Royal Life at 9pm, in which he visited key locations around the world to tell the story of his life, before an extended News at Ten at 10pm.

Channel 4, meanwhile, aired an obituary programme at 4pm and featured an extended 90-minute news broadcast at 7pm. 

Channel 4's usual peak time schedule resumed with The Circle final at 10pm. 

People stood in masks, two metres apart to hug and remember the Queen's husband, who dedicated his life to the country

The number of people laying wreathes became larger as the day went on leading to a plea from the palace and the Government not to gather 

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