BBC Boss Defends Public Broadcaster's Jubilee Coverage

 Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

BBC director general Mark Thompson has come out in defense of the public broadcaster's news team and its coverage of the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Amid criticism from some viewers, he said in a staff memo that he was “proud” of the "outstanding journalism" that the network provided, the Daily Telegraph reported.

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Thompson, who is set to step down this fall, also argued that the broadcaster simply “reflected” the country’s mood with its coverage of the celebrations that took place over an extended weekend.

The coverage won the BBC the biggest TV audience in the U.K. for the year to date Monday night when it aired the star-studded jubilee concert. 

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But critics, including actor and writer Stephen Fry, the narrator of the Harry Potter audio books, derided the BBC for its reports, particularly ones about Sunday's fleet parade down the river Thames. Fry had on Twitter called it “mind-numbingly tedious.” Others had said they had hoped for fewer reporters interviewing people about fluffier things, such as their family plans for the day, and for more information on the boats seen on the Thames and their purpose.

One former BBC controller had said on Twitter that the network "won't win any BAFTAs," the country's TV awards, for the coverage.

By Wednesday night, 2,425 viewers had complained to the BBC, with nearly 700 criticizing its commentary and presenters, according to the Telegraph.

But a BBC-internal "appreciation index" of the events coverage gave the broadcaster "respectable" scores, the Telegraph said.

Out of a high score of 100, viewers gave the river pageant a score of 82, while the concert drew a score of 90. Last year's Royal Wedding received a score of 88.

"Our output has been impressive not only in its scale, but in its ambition, quality and outstanding journalism," the Telegraph quoted Thompson as saying in his memo. "We reflected reaction from up and down the country."

He added: "Our role in creating and staging Monday’s incredible Diamond Jubilee concert also meant we made our own contribution to a special moment in our nation’s history."

He also highlighted that "overall across the jubilee weekend, 68.5 percent of the nation watched some of our diamond jubilee programming, a stunning figure."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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