BBC Homepage coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 4 April 2005

The 'Big Red Button' that puts the BBC.co.uk homepage into 'Breaking News' mode was naturally used over the weekend to reflect the news of the Pope's death. One of the things that I particularly like about the system is that when a story is on the page for a long time (in this case nearly 24 hours over the weekend) the image and treatment is constantly updated, re-using the hard work of our colleagues over at BBC News, without having to duplicate the effort. Here is just a sample of some of the ways the page looked over the weekend:

Coverage of the Pope's death on BBC.co.uk

Coverage of the Pope's death on BBC.co.uk

Coverage of the Pope's death on BBC.co.uk

Coverage of the Pope's death on BBC.co.uk

Coverage of the Pope's death on BBC.co.uk

By Sunday evening normal service had resumed on the homepage. For a media organisation it is always a difficult line to tread on a story like this - at what point does coverage tip from not being respectful enough to becoming too much? We've had complaints on the Points of View message board that the live re-working of Quatermass on BBC Four had on-screen graphics announcing the news:

"Yes, and thank you BBC for spoiling the drama with a newsflash that we were all expecting anyway - not once, but TWICE! Most of the people watching this will probably know all about the Pope's state of health, and if they were really concerned they would be watching the news channels in the first place."

At the same time we've also had to field complaints that the BBC didn't interrupt Casualty, choosing instead to make an announcement on BBC One that was slightly delayed, but allowed the programme to finish:

"I can't believe that the leader of the Catholic Church, and of a billion people worldwide, has died and the BBC is showing Casualty, with no news bulletin or amended programming. If the Head of the Church of England passed, I think they would be a different scenario.

It is appalling."

Still, I was wryly amused today by one irony. As I understood it, the schism with Rome that led to the formation of the Protestant Church of England was in order to ensure that the papacy never again interfered with the re-marrying arrangements of the English monarchy.

Coverage of the Pope's death on BBC.co.uk

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