Prince Philip dies: BBC takes down online form for viewers maddened by its coverage

The BBC has pulled down an online form it temporarily created to handle a surge in complaints over its blanket coverage of news of the Duke of Edinburgh‘s death at Windsor Castle on Friday. 

The corporation has also offered its staff ‘grief counselling’ after Prince Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort, passed away reportedly next to the Queen just two months before his 100th birthday. 

The BBC axed its programming across multiple TV channels on Friday to air specials celebrating the life of the duke, a Greek prince who served in the Royal Navy during World War Two before marrying his dear ‘Lilibet’. 

But viewers were so maddened by its ‘hysterical’ TV coverage that the broadcaster set up an online form to cope with a surge in complaints. Even former News at One presenter Simon McCoy questioning the scale of the coverage, while ex-minister Chris Mullins called the ‘North Korea-style’ simulcast a ‘big mistake’.

Others turned off their TV sets in droves, with overnight ratings showing that BBC Two viewers plunged by 64 per cent compared to last week while ratings for BBC One – the channel to which Britons turn at moments of national significance – fell by six per cent from 2.56million to 2.41million on the previous week. 

A BBC spokesman told MailOnline the complaints form was a temporary measure removed on Saturday around 90 minutes after the broadcaster resumed its normal programming at 2pm. It will only reveal how many complaints it received in its fortnightly bulletin, and only then if more than 100 were made. 

The corporation also objected to claims that it had offered its journalistic staff ‘grief counselling’, instead calling it a ‘general support service that all responsible news organisations have’. ‘We have a general support service that is always available and there is no specific offer related to recent events,’ it said in a statement. 

On Friday, the BBC had explained its decision to simulcast for 24 hours: ‘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.’ 

However, the decision sparked widespread criticism, prompting even former BBC anchor Mr McCoy to tweet: ‘BBC1 and BBC2 showing the same thing. And presumably the News Channel too. Why? I know this is a huge event. But surely the public deserve a choice of programming?’ 

The BBC has pulled down an online form it created after experiencing a surge in complaints from viewers maddened by its blanket coverage of news of the Duke of Edinburgh's death

The BBC has pulled down an online form it created after experiencing a surge in complaints from viewers maddened by its blanket coverage of news of the Duke of Edinburgh's death

The BBC has pulled down an online form it created after experiencing a surge in complaints from viewers maddened by its blanket coverage of news of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death 

Viewers were so maddened by the coverage that the broadcaster set up an online complaints form

Viewers were so maddened by the coverage that the broadcaster set up an online complaints form

Viewers were so maddened by the coverage that the broadcaster set up an online complaints form

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

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

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

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

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

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.  

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.’ 

Blanket coverage turns off viewers

Channel 4’s Gogglebox was the most watched show on Friday as blanket tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh across the BBC and ITV made viewers switch off.

BBC1 and BBC2 dropped their planned schedules following the announcement of Prince Philip’s death, as did ITV.

BBC1 lost 6 per cent of its audience on Friday evening compared to the same night a week before, according to analysis by industry website Deadline. It found BBC2 viewers were down by 65 per cent, while ITV’s audience fell by 60 per cent.

Gogglebox was the highest-rated show with almost 4.2 million viewers. Channel 4 mostly kept its existing programming.

A BBC Panorama special on Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana has been pulled from tonight’s schedule. A spokesman declined to say when it would now be shown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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'

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'

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

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

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

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

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 b

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

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

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

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

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

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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