BBC News responds to criticism of Witchell’s funeral comments
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The BBC have responded to a torrent of complaints received following comments made by Royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell during Prince Philip’s funeral. During the coverage in question, Witchell was offering analysis and commentary as Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William were seen talking as they left St George’s Chapel. He said “William feels very disappointed” and Harry “resentful” along with other comments around body language. But his words prompted a ferocious backlash from viewers who said it was unacceptable to offer such commentary. The complaints come amid a backlash against the BBC’s ‘blanket coverage of the funeral which as led to over 110,000 complaints to Ofcom from enraged viewers.
As the Royals left St George’s Chapel after the funeral and walked up the hill to Windsor Castle in a surprise change of plan, Nicholas Witchell provided analysis as Harry, Kate and William talked.
He said: “So far as one can understand, William feels very dissappointed, let down. Harry feels resentful.
“What sort of interaction has there been? Well there was minimal, so far as we can see, interaction between them as they walked down to the chapel.”
He added: “There was some engagement we saw there as they walked away after the service. Harry talking to Katherine, William seemed to be rather reluctant to engage initially.”
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But his comments sparked a ferocious backlash from viewers which the BBC broadcast this morning.
One email read: ‘Why was it thought appropriate to have Huw Edwards and Nicholas Witchell discuss and attempt to analyse the ‘body language’ between Princes Harry and William as they walked back to the castle?
It continued: ‘The whole country is well aware of the ongoing friction between the two princes, but to bring it to the fore on that solemn day was both inappropriate and disgraceful.’
Another furious email read: ‘Instead of sensitive commentary about the day and service, it focused entirely on the dynamic between Princes William and Harry. Nick Witchell had the gall to speculate on and read into what was going on between them during the walk behind the Duke’s coffin. The whole conversation felt sordid, cheap, disrespectful, insensitive and plain wrong.’
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The BBC responded: ‘Nicholas Witchell reported in detail on the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, reflecting its historic and national significance, remembering the life and achievements of the Duke, while also examining what this moment meant for the Royal Family.
‘The relationship between Prince Harry and Prince William has been a focus of interest in recent weeks.
In this context, Nicholas offered analysis of the implications of this solemn event on the Royal Family and what could be construed about current family relations from what was seen at the funeral.
‘This was a legitimate, impartial and proportionate part of the coverage of this story.’
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Earlier this week the BBC also responded to the 110,000 complaints TV regulator OFCOM recieved of the ‘blanket coverage’ the BBC put out over the days of the Duke’s death which saw TV scehdules changed to programmes covering Prince Philip’s life.
The BBC said on its site: “The funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was a significant event which generated a lot of interest both nationally and internationally.
“We do not make such changes without careful consideration, and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster during moments of national significance.”
Tom Bradby and newsreader Julie Etchingham covered the funeral proceedings on ITV but Channel 4 and Channel 5 opted to air regular programming during the funeral instead of dedicated coverage.
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