Damazer slams Mail's anti-BBC agenda

Mail: "not reflecting its readership"

The BBC’s deputy director of news, Mark Damazer, has criticised the Daily Mail for failing to reflect the mood of its readers in its sustained attack on the corporation’s coverage of the death of the Queen Mother.

Criticism of the BBC and the performance of newsreader Peter Sissons has dominated the pages of the Daily Mail and other newspapers, including The Times, since Saturday.

But Damazer hit out at the Mail, claiming its editor Paul Dacre had an anti-BBC agenda and saying he would be "happy to debate with him any time and anywhere about the issues he has raised".

"People who read the Daily Mail are entitled to get the same value out of the BBC as any other viewer, but I don’t think in this case that Dacre is accurately reflecting his own readership," he added. "If I ask myself if our coverage reflected the sadness of the occasion, respect, the historical magnitude of what went on during her lifetime and the human qualities of the Queen Mother, then I am certain we did.

"But when reading some of the coverage in the Daily Mail, you would think that we were trying to get people out on the street to protest against her life and the Royal Family."

The row over the BBC’s coverage escalated after the decision of

St James’s Palace to allow ITN to record Prince Charles’s tribute to his grandmother.

Following on from the Prince’s recent decision to allow ITN exclusive access when he visited a bed and breakfast in Cumbria, the apparent snub bolstered speculation that the Royal Family had been unhappy with the BBC’s coverage.

The corporation’s decision not to cover all of the Queen Mother’s centenary celebrations and memos to staff telling them that reporting of the Royal Family in Golden Jubilee year should not be too "deferential" is also believed to have angered the Palace.

But Nigel Dacre, editor of ITV News, claimed its Prince Charles exclusive was due to his team putting in an early request to the Palace. "The strength of our coverage was that we had a lot of rehearsals and also spent a lot of time discussing the tone. I think we were quite successful in reflecting what was a day of sadness and reflection."

Damazer, said the BBC’s coverage had been "authoritative, dignified and appropriate" and he "absolutely included Peter [Sissons] in that judgement". Sissons has spoken out against the criticism of his decision to wear a burgundy tie and his questioning of the Queen Mother’s niece.

By Julie Tomlin

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