BBC's Nelson Mandela Coverage Draws Complaints From Mrs Brown's Boys Fans

Hundreds of viewers were so engrossed in a re-run of Mrs Brown's Boys on BBC1, that they complained to the broadcaster when the channel cut to news of Nelson Mandelas death.

The corporation says it has received a staggering 1,350 complaints about the extent of the coverage, and thus the lack of coverage of the UK storm and flooding.

A BBC spokeswoman described Mandela as a "hugely significant world leader with an enormous political and cultural influence across the world.

Nelson Mandela, acknowledging the crowd at a rally in Glasgow after he had earlier received the Freedom of the City

"His death is of considerable interest to our audiences at home and across the globe.

"We know that people turn to the BBC for authoritative coverage of breaking news and we will continue to provide comprehensive coverage for a wide range of BBC News outlets, across TV, radio and online, as the world reacts to his passing, reflects on his legacy, and prepares for his funeral.

"After the initial announcement we have, of course, continued to cover other major stories as they have developed."

"Nobody needs a lecture on his importance but we are probably talking about the most important statesman, the most significant statesman, of the last 100 years, a man who defined freedom, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness. The importance of his life and marking his death seems extremely clear to us," James Harding, the director of BBC News told BBC Newswatch.

"In addition to that there is a lot of news that is rolling, you are seeing president Obama come out and make comments, David Cameron make comments. The BBC and only the BBC managed to get former [South African] president FW De Klerk."

"For Christ’s sake BBC, give it a bloody break for five minutes, will you?" he wrote.

"It’s as if the poor bugger now has to bear your entire self-flagellating white post-colonial bien pensant guilt; look! Famous nice black man dies! Let’s re-run the entire history of South Africa. That’s better than watching the country we’re in being flattened by a storm."

No matter how significant the news, the broadcaster has oft been the subject of complaints for cutting away from scheduled programming to go to a news bulletin.

BBC Newswatch wrote a special report on the number of people who had complained that coverage of the 2005 London bombings was excessive and interrupted regular broadcasting, with one Tony Sharp saying: "If something had happened, then I would prefer to hear about it in my own good time. I would tune in to one of your scheduled news programmes."

In 1990, around 500 complained when Antiques Roadshow was interrupted to show Mandela's release from prison.