The overall interest in the Royal British family has been booming recently, largely due to the interview between Harry and Meghan with Oprah Winfrey and the hit “The Crown” television series. However, the media saturation seems to have reached a tipping point after Prince Philip’s death on Friday, at least in Britain.
After being overwhelmed with complaints about their wall-to-wall coverage, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) opened a feedback form.
On Friday, Queen Elizabeth II’s lifelong friend and the longest-serving consort in British history died at the age of 99. The BBC reacted by cancelling its daily television and radio programming in favour of special news stories and tribute shows. Popular TV shows such as the top-rated soap EastEnders and the MasterChef final have been rescheduled. Simulcast coverage was available on several networks.
Following the announcement of the death by the palace, national radio stations abruptly switched to sombre playlists and pulled several music programs off the air.
Some viewers seemed to be tuning out as well. According to data published by Deadline, an entertainment website, BBC One’s Friday average viewership between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. fell to 2.41 million from 2.56 million the week before, a drop of almost 6%. According to Deadline’s review of preliminary data from BARB, the organization that gathers ratings on behalf of British broadcasters, BBC Two’s viewership fell 65 per cent, from 980,000 to 340,000.
When the BBC removed all programming from BBC Four, including coverage of an England women’s football match, viewers were outraged. The BBC has been contacted by CNN for comment.
Similarly, ITV, the BBC’s main competitor, aired a documentary about Prince Philip at 5 p.m. local time, followed by a two-hour news special at 7 p.m. and a documentary at 9 p.m. According to Deadline, the show’s ratings fell by 60% on Friday evening.
According to Deadline’s analysis, Channel 4, another British free-to-air service, had less coverage of the death, and its 9 p.m. show ‘Gogglebox’ was watched by 4.2 million viewers, the highest-rated individual show of the day.
The BBC, which is financed by a compulsory license fee levied on all television audiences, has been at the heart of British broadcasting for nearly a century, but it is fighting for survival.
As the government, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, considers the corporation’s potential financing, major global digital rivals like Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), and Google-owned YouTube continue to eat away at its audience.
The advocacy group Defund the BBC, which advocates for the decriminalization of failing to pay a TV license fee that finances the broadcaster, said on Friday that the BBC’s decision to set up a complaints form was “disgraceful” and that the broadcaster is “anti-British.”