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BBC receives hundreds of complaints over coverage of papal visit

By on Wednesday, 22 September 2010

BBC receives hundreds of complaints over coverage of papal visit

BBC coverage of the papal visit has received criticism for being overly sympathetic and for being too negative. 

The number of complaints totalled approximately 750, with 400 complaining that the papal visit received too much airtime and around 170 concerned that the BBC viewed Benedict XVI too favourably. 

By contrast, around 200 people complained that the coverage had been excessively critical while over 100 praised the BBC’s coverage.

Sky News, meanwhile, said it had “received many hundreds of comments from viewers around the world praising its coverage of the Pope’s visit”.
In a statement defending its record over the reporting of the visit, the BBC said: “[The papal visit] was of huge historic significance to millions of Catholics and other people in the UK” and that it was “entirely appropriate that the BBC, as the nation’s broadcaster, would provide coverage of the event.”
The BBC recognised that the visit had “divided public opinion and been the subject of much debate” but added that it was “absolutely right for an independent news organisation” to broadcast programmes that raised “issues that have negatively affected the Catholic Church”.
In February earlier this year, speaking to Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, who is also a Catholic, defended the corporation against accusations of prejudice, denying any indications of bias in a question and answer session after the speech.
The BBC said in a statement: “In its news and current affairs coverage of any subject the BBC is always committed to impartiality and accuracy, seeking also to reflect the different sides of any debate. The coverage of the current papal visit was no different, and careful planning went into making sure that we provided the most comprehensive and authoritative coverage for our audiences.”

  • Dave

    I didn't get round to complaining to the BBC but was disgusted that the Vigil prayer service was relegated to News24, where it was obstructed by sub-titles and worse: a continual moving display of unbalanced complaints about paedophile priests, even as the Pope blessed us with the Blessed Sacrament. How pathetic can religiously ignorant news editors get?

  • Mrgrtwoods439

    I was delighted by the coverage of the papal visit. Both on BBC and SKY. Its heartwarming to know so many people believe in God.

  • Gonul_tahir


  • Rstar2k10

    why are you writing mumbo jumbo gonul_tahir?

  • RJ

    I wrote to thank them. I think it's important to do so; not just to complain.

  • Georg Misdroy

    You can be certain that it is no coincidence that the BBC received complaints whereas Sky did not. You can be absolutely certain that the anti-Pope organisations sent emails round and asked their sympathizers to complain to the BBC.

    The people we are dealing with are well organized ideologues. We should not underestimate them. You English have been fortunate enough to live in a lively democracy where people would throw all sorts of things at each other but where at the end of the day people would still talk to each other. What I have always admired in the English is that a left-wing Labour person and a right-wing Tory could argue and then enjoy a pint together.

    Well, you can't have a pint with Peter Tatchell or Terry Sanderson. These are people you are not used to dealing with, a new type of activist. I am German, I know these people well. In Germany we are well used to left wing ideologues, they don't want a spirited discussion about whether God exists or not (that I am sure most Catholics are willing to have) but they want to bulldoze you over and interfere with your Catholic way of life. They believe they know what is right for you. The only way to deal with these people is to stand up to them. They will not soften their stance, believe me.

    So, everybody who reads this, please write to the BBC now and either praise their coverage or complain about it having been too critical against the Pope.

  • Robert T

    Write your complaints here: BBC Trust complaints dept at PO Box 1922,Glagow, G2 3WT

    There was a concerted attempt by the BBC to undermine the moral authority of the Pope. Paxman had to say “as Ratzinger he headed the organisation that used to be called the Inquisition.” enter Monty Python cardinals! As for the pederasts, does the BBC bring up the systematic abuse by carers and social workers. in state run childers' homes only a few years ago evry time it interviews a social worker.The real reason the secularists wish to undermine the church is its opposition to abortion. A decision high up in the BBC was made to traduce the visit.

  • Mike

    Sky were definitely better, but the BBC did as good a job as they could. They didn't ignore or sideline the event which they could have done on the grounds of impartiality (just one religious leader among many). But their news coverage remains biased, the default position being a secular liberal heterodoxy with little interest in orthodox Catholicism. Now the visit's over, they'll quickly switch back to it – just watch.

  • Ratbag

    BBC annual fee: £145.50

    SKY subscription: More than that!

    Pope's Visit to UK: Priceless

  • Built656

    i live in the states…the coverage was outstanding….camera work fantastic….the ceremonys were first class/////the music was fantastic at all event….

  • Built656

    the British people should be so proud of the beauty and style of the event….near a billion people saw it around the world…..

  • Bwaj

    No – but SKY TV News did keep mentioning about the abuse crisis and the Holy Father on the internet, on their programmes and on the 'ticker-tape'. For the most part I watched EWTN.

  • Bwaj

    I will be putting in a complaint to the Prime Minister about SKY TV and the BBC because of their continued references to the abuse crisis and trying to link Pope Benedict XVI to it even when I had shown them books and studies which show he is the only Pope to deal with it. I shall also be complaining about them not making reference to a certain PT and the books he has praised or written chapters in which I believe means he is not fit to be asked for his opinion.

  • Kenny

    The TV coverage on the BBC was reasonable. But the radio, radio 4 and the today programme in paricular, carried on with their mission. To educate the world that The church is nothing but bad. It has done no good, ever, and continues to denegrate the human person. Radio 4 really is appalling.

  • alison fi

    I will never forget the images of people rushing along the Mall to see the Pope. It was completely uplifting. I thought the Sky News commentary was wonderful and informative, very friendly and wholly balanced. Yes the ticker tape about abuse was annoying to see it underneath say his visit to see the elderly but then the Vatican did keep drip feeding this into the visit at various points so as a conseqeunce it popped up continually. In the end does any of this matter? The visit was a success if you count that people like me and my husband have decided to stop being “lapsed” and re-engage properly with the faith as have countless others. Today I flicked open Facebook to see people at work proudly displaying images of the weekend at Hyde Park. There is simply no way that this would have happened previously wherein someone in an office would announce their christian faith. The hostile anti Pope atmosphere in the media for weeks on end in the run up along with the hateful and ugly demo counterbalanced with the beauty of the visit itself to Catholicisms great advantage. It's a wonderful and exciting time from which we need to move forward …always positively engaging with people please!

  • alison fi

    Agree about PT. That issue needs a LOT of light

  • Jerrylaidler

    I thought the whole visit was fantastic and the “gig” at cofton park was great (a bit like Glastonbury – well sort of :) – though the waiting game for the ticket to come through took an age due mainly to security and H&S – I got my invite 4 days before the event – doh. Anyway, I had been told that I needed to be patient and flexible.

    I thought Sky News coverage got it just right – it knew when to discuss the hard issues and when to report solely on the event itself – I guess the old adage of “there's a time and a place”.

    I thought the BBC got there coverage wrong, which is a shame 'cos I like the beeb – ah well. Though Huw Edwards did his best – bless him 

    One of the things I did take from what Pope Benedict wanted us to do was to “engage in dialogue and conversation” with each other and our critics. This got me thinking of people like Peter Tatchell — which you have to give credit to for his calm exterior and dogged way he sticks to his cause.

    However, people like Peter tend to take the “high ground” and can be difficult to discuss and reason with – moral sound bites seem to be the order of our age as opposed to frank and open discussion.

    We need to allow people to develop and put forward their views.

    On a lighter note …

    Mmmm, funny thing though – at cofton park it rained and drizzled constantly until Pope Benedict arrived when the sun shone beautifully, and when he left it started to rain again

    —- now I am not suggesting anything ok :)

    God Bless (or woteva God you follow or not) – take it easy


  • Alexanne

    I stopped watching BBC's prejudice against our Holy Father and indeed the values held by catholics, the only one where there was any decency and fairness in coverage was Sally Magnusson at Bellahouston. I decided instead to ho with Sky and also who had coverage without commentary. I felt Sky were reasonably balanced in what I was able to watch and were in fact interested in who our Holy Father is and also what He had to say. I have for some time felt BBC have become less and less balanced in any reporting they do.

  • Eric Conway

    From an Irish perspective. By comparison with the Irish T.V. station, RTE ( which is about as biased/unbalanced/unprofessional as you can get in relation to the Catholic Church ; alternatively totally sychophantic/grovelling towards the homosexual lobby ) the BBC coverage was quite good & the Sky coverage was excellent. Count your blessings in England.

  • Ratbag

    I'm with you!

  • Ennab

    I enjoyed Sky's coverage more than teh BBC's.

    At one point a woman from the BBC interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Mizzen said “I'm not going to ask you about you about the abuse scandal” before asking them the question she wanted an answer to. Says it all really.

  • Cathydellar7

    I felt the BBC was very anti-Catholic before the Holy Father came but during the visit the commentary was excellent and even the most bigotted viewer could not help be amazed at this quiet man doing so much good in so little time. There is only one negative comment I would like to make. During the distribution of Holy Communion the BBC resorted to discussions whereas would it not have been more respectful to remain silent at these moments.

  • Ratbag

    Can you imagine what the RTE coverage would be like for a (possible) future papal visit to Ireland after your painfully accurate assessment, Eric Conway? They'd better buck their ideas up…

  • logos27

    The BBC coverage was in two parts. The preliminaries, such as the panorama attack on Abuse, and some other documentaries, were hatchet jobs. The actual coverage was good, except for the continual harping on sexual abuse virtually every five minutes – which the commentators seem to have been instructed to keep mentioning at regular intervals. The programme on the Vatican was excellent. I did complain about the Panorama coverage and continued attempts to link abuse with Catholicism.

    Sky's coverage was the most extensive and consistently well done.

    Worst was ITV and Channel 4 – which did not cover the events, but devoted large amounts of time to broadcasting unbalanced anti-Catholic invective from Peter Tatchell and others. News coverage on Channel 4 in particular was extremely unbalanced and anti-Catholic. Complaints about this would be useful.

  • warsaw

    So the BBC is against condoms, against employment of women and gay people etc etc etc?


    So why dignify the silly man and give him power were his dignity matters, in places like El Salvedore?

    I think I know the answer because I once went on an equality & diversity course by an ex BBC trainer. He told us that we lived in separate cultures an wherever this is obviously not true, he simpified or said “ah, we have a rebel here” to anyone who answered his questions. Simplifications included saying that all Chinese people are superstitious particularly about the number seven, but that all Chinese people find a calender in a Chinese language (even if upside down) a positive image. Indonesians respect their elders (we learned this through “role play”). As another equal-opps trainer said in her introduction “there are some trainers going around saying you shouldn't shake the left hand of a black person because that's the hand they use to wipe themselves in the lavatory and I'm sure you'll agree that that's not really where it's at, is it?

    BBC coverage presents Mr Ratzinger & respect for his opinions as respect for catholics.

    The very training that tells BBC staff that we must employ women and gay people tells us that we must give respect to silly old biggot and is loathed by many catholics. I don't think the BBC reported speeches at the end of the protest the pope rally, so I shall make two quotes from the very last one. “I'm told we have only three minutes each to speak. I've been waiting thirty years for this. … I came to the UK and was impressed at a nearly secular society but depressed by the fawning behaviour of politicians towards the pope. … If the pope wants to know what I think I have one message for him: come to Ireland!”

  • warsaw

    Have just posted a long version of this above.

    It's known that not all catholics agree with this man.

    You might know the figures better than me, but I think I heard that about 95% of catholics disgree with this man about condoms. So please do not lump the 95% in with the 5%. Further: please use a condom.

  • warsaw

    Did they pay us?

  • warsaw

    logos27: are there another 26 of you posting this sort of stuff?

    Mr Ratzinger refuses to hand-over files about criminal offences by the clergy to civil police forces outside his micro-state of the vatican.

    An interview with the editor of The Tablet on TV quoted him as saying that there are some catholic diocese round the world where the problem of child abuse simply hasn't been raised: either it hasn't happened, or respect for the organisation is so strong that it can be covered up. Are you beginning to see a link between respect for the man and respect for unchallenged child abuse?

  • logos27

    I wonder what part of Warsaw you are from – obviously anti-Catholic central.

    Curious that you are so anxious for relese of Vatican files, when the Church has been the most open body of the world on Child Abuse – and received nothing but brickbats for its honesty.

    Wha other organisations or governments have conducted national surveys, collating all accusations of abuse going back 50 years – and hen published them? Not the UK government, not the US government, not protestants, Muslims, jewish bodies, secular schools or social serviices. Where small scale investigations have occurred, hey have revealed far higher abuse rates.

    So why only the interest in Catholic cases? Why no demands for other bodies to do as Catholics have ALREADY done? Or is the interest not in child protection, but maligning Catholics?

  • Eric Conway

    I can well imagine it Ratbag ( do I have to call you that ? ). One of the reasons I love to go abroasd on hols. is that I can avoid RTE ( most of the Irish media sing from the same hymn sheet – a constant parrotting of puerile liberal/feminist dogma ). Half baked opinion is presented as journalism. They are totally unprofessional. Alas many of the great ( unthinknig ) unwashed take their views directly from RTE ( critical analysis & independent thought are not encouraged – a bit like the old Soviet Empire ). For his own dignity, it might be best if the Pope did'nt visit. Although some thought similarly about the UK visit. Thank God, most Brits. ( apart from Dawkins/Robertson/Paisley & gang ) kept their dignity.