Viewers irked at BBC's Jackson coverage

750 viewers think pubcaster gave death too much airtime

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LONDON -- The BBC has defended its coverage of pop singer Michael Jackson's death after nearly 750 viewers complained that the pubcaster had given too much airtime to the topic.

Writing on a BBC News blog, BBC Newsroom editor Mary Hockaday said that Jackson had been "a huge figure internationally and BBC News went into gear to report a big breaking news story."

But she emphasized that the pubcaster had given weight to other news stories on the day.

"But this (Jackson's death) wasn't to the exclusion of other important stories domestically and internationally. Friday was also the third day of our special coverage on television and our Web site from Pakistan and Afghanistan."

The BBC covered the singer's death extensively all day Friday on its rolling news channel BBC News and led with the story on all its news bulletins, as well as ripping up evening schedules so that it could air a half-hour BBC News special in primetime on BBC1.

But some viewers have accused the BBC of "losing perspective" and devoting excessive airtime and giving blow-by-blow coverage to "nondevelopments" in the story.

"By Friday evening, Jackson was being referred to, across the BBC, as a 'musical genius'. Whilst I'd have expected such hyperbole from his fans, I didn't expect to hear it from (news anchor) Kirsty Wark on (flagship nightly news magazine) 'Newsnight,' " said one entry on the BBC blog.

"As the hysteria grew, so the lines between fact and opinion became blurred in your presentation of the story," the same viewer complained.