BBC defends ‘excessive’ Mandela coverage

Corporation sent 120 staff to South Africa, three times as many as all rival UK broadcasters put together

Ben Flanagan

Published: Updated:

The BBC has defended its reporting of Nelson Mandela’s death after receiving hundreds of complaints from viewers claiming that the coverage was ‘excessive’.

The corporation sent 120 staff to South Africa over a ten-day period, with an additional 20 from its World Service - nearly three times as many as all rival British broadcasters put together.

According to The Times, Sky News had 21 staff on the ground, while ITV and Channel 4 sent nine people and Channel 5 had just four.

By yesterday the BBC had received 1,695 complaints that its coverage was “excessive”, The Times reported.

Some complainants said that there should have been more coverage of the severe weather that hit the UK this month.

Expenses for the 120 staff were paid for by the UK license fee, although the additional 20 World Service staff were funded separately.

The BBC defended its allocation of license-fee payers’ money to cover the event.

“Nelson Mandela was a hugely significant world leader with an enormous political and cultural influence across the world. His death is of considerable interest to our audiences at home and across the globe,” a BBC spokesperson told Al Arabiya News in an email.

“Over a ten-day period we expect to have deployed around 120 journalists, technicians and support staff to work on this huge international story… We started scaling back significantly following Tuesday’s memorial service. As always we have sought to ensure maximum value for money for the Licence Fee payer in planning the deployment.”

The ceremony on Tuesday, attended by Barack Obama, was part of South Africa's 10-day farewell to Mandela, the nation's first black president.