A SPOKESPERSON FOR television soap EastEnders has confirmed that the show will cut short a storyline concerning the death of a baby after receiving hundreds of complaints about how the sensitive issue was handled.
The plotline involved the death of the day-old baby son of Ronnie Branning , played by actress Samantha Womack. While still in a state of shock, the character then swapped her dead child with Kat and Alfie Moon’s newborn.
More than 6,000 complaints have now been made to the BBC about episodes, making it the most contentious storyline in the show’s history. A further 374 have been received by media regulator Ofcom.
Parenting website Mumsnet.com condemned the storyline as insensitive and ill-informed, saying it would encourage misconceptions of bereaved mothers as “deranged and unhinged”.
In a letter to the BBC, founder of Mumsnet.com Justine Roberts said that it was rare to find an issue on which there was almost “complete unanimity” amongst the site’s users, but this had been reached in the condemnation of the baby-swap storyline. Roberts added:
Our members are not naïve or seeking a world where TV does not cover the painful issues faced by too many parents. They are simply asking for difficult issues, such as cot death, to be tackled with intelligence and sensitivity… The approach shown by the programme makers appears at best to be ill-informed, and at worst looks like a cynical ploy to make headlines by creating deliberate controversy.
The BBC said there was “absolutely” no suggestion that Ronnie’s behaviour was typical of a bereaved mother of a newborn baby.
The storyline, which was orginally meant to run for most of the year, will now be rewritten and concluded by spring.