The BBC has faced fresh accusations of dumbing down over its extensive coverage of Tiger Woods’s apology last week.
Scores of viewers complained about the golfer being the top story on the day 1,600 workers lost their jobs as the North-East’s last steel plant was shut down.
Last Friday also saw British Gas report a 50 per cent profit rise despite the economic downturn, while it emerged that another British soldier had been killed fighting the Taliban.
But rather than leading with these stories, the golfer’s public apology for a string of extra-marital affairs was chosen as the headline story on BBC1’s main evening bulletin.
The corporation received 283 formal complaints, while many more voiced their dissatisfaction on internet messageboards.
They accused the broadcaster of ‘ sensationalising’ the news and dumbing down by chasing celebrity stories.
One viewer wrote: ‘I can’t believe that this is the BBC’s top news story of the day for the country and even the world.
‘What is the presumption that we are all obsessed with over-paid, over-sexed, and over-rated celebrities? Has the editorial team forgotten that the public are more concerned with the state of the British economy and our troops in foreign fields?’
Another said: ‘Particularly on the day when Corus is shutting down, with a massive impact on the region, whilst second news item was dear old Gordon saying he’s all about saving jobs.
‘To have this Tiger Woods item as the main item was an insult to those 1,600 people going home tonight in Redcar jobless, while our main news provider concentrated on a multi-millionaire golfer who’s been unfaithful to his wife.’
Woods, who is married to Swedish model Elin Nordegren and has two young children, was appearing in public for the first time since stories of his affairs emerged in November.
From a Florida golf club he gave a 15-minute speech to try to convey his sorrow for his behaviour and the ‘deep pain’ his philandering caused.
The bizarre stage-managed public apology was the main story on the BBC News channel and Sky News for most of Friday afternoon and evening.
But many were angry it received top billing on the evening news on the day Indian conglomerate Tata announced it was mothballing the Corus steelworks in Redcar. The decision brought to an end more than 160 years of steelmaking on Teesside.
One viewer said: ‘Our economy is in tatters, our children are dying in Afghanistan, at least 1,600 jobs are going in Teesside. What rubbish. I pay my licence fee for much better than this.’
But the BBC defended its editorial decisions. In a statement, it said: ‘As the first sports personality to become a billionaire, Tiger Woods is a colossal figure in the sporting world and therefore of huge interest to many people.
‘His highly unusual apology after his very public fall from grace is therefore, in our opinion, a big news story that warrants a prominent place in our bulletins.
‘On that particular day we did not feel there was another story with bigger news impact.’
Last year almost 750 viewers complained about its blanket coverage of Michael Jackson’s death.
Audiences said the star’s death did not justify the prominence and scale of the BBC’s reporting.
Similarly, the corporation was criticised for devoting too much time to the death of reality television star Jade Goody from cervical cancer.