UPDATE: The BBC is now sending identical responses to complaints about Berena/Holby City, whether or not they raise the same issues. Read more.

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Stage 1 responses:

“Thank you for contacting us about Holby City. We’re very sorry to hear that you were extremely disappointed about the break up between Bernie and Serena. It is never the BBC’s intention that our drama programmes should inadvertently affect someone’s personal wellbeing. Holby City is a fictional drama, and therefore has to be viewed in this context. We feel that our viewers understand this, and are also aware that any character in a drama is an individual rather than a ‘type’ to represent whole groups of people. No single character is intended to represent a profession, culture or any other group of people – they are individuals first and foremost. We would also note that considering that as Holby City deals with sensitive issues and storylines; there is a permanent page for information and support on the programme’s website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5WfMjzZ9404XmWYXy0X4Q51/information-and-support … I understand you feel strongly about this and please be assured I have placed your complaint on our daily audience feedback report, to be viewed by senior BBC management, and the producers of Holby City. These reports can be used to inform future broadcasting decisions so please be assured that your complaint has been sent to the right people, and once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us.”

“Thank you for contacting us about Holby City. We’re very sorry to hear that you, and many others, were extremely disappointed about the break up between Bernie and Serena. The producers of the programme take the importance of the issues you have raised very seriously and fully respect how this could resonate with fans. It is never the BBC’s intention that our drama programmes should inadvertently affect someone’s personal wellbeing. We do fully appreciate your comments, but as you have noted, Holby City is a fictional drama series. Considering the extent of its fan base, we’re afraid that it simply isn’t possible to please every member of our audience when it comes to each storyline. In this case, Bernie’s desire to travel and stay active clashed with Serena’s desire to stay with her family – a situation that no doubt some people could identify with. It should also be taken into consideration that there are external practicalities to consider when writing a storyline that revolves around longevity. Our Editorial Guidelines state that we must avoid causing unjustified offence, so in this case, we can only apologize that you were upset by this development. We appreciate that certain situations can emotionally charged for someone who has a personal connection to a storyline. We would also note that considering that Holby City deals with sensitive, real life situations; there is a permanent page for information and support on the programme’s website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5WfMjzZ9404XmWYXy0X4Q51/information-and-support We are tasked by our Royal Charter to ensure that our output reflects the diverse communities of the whole of the UK, accurately and authentically – with specific emphasis on reflecting under-represented communities such as LGBTQ+ people. We will continue to address the issues this community may face within our output. I understand you feel strongly about this and please be assured I have placed your complaint on our daily audience feedback report, to be viewed by senior BBC management, and the producers of Holby City. These reports can be used to inform future broadcasting decisions so please be assured that your complaint has been sent to the right people, and once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us.

“Holby City is a fictional drama, and therefore has to be viewed in this context. We feel that our viewers understand this, and are also aware that any character in a drama is an individual rather than a ‘type’ to represent whole groups of people. No single character is intended to represent a profession, culture or any other group of people – they are individuals first and foremost. We don’t wish to portray a stereotype or an offensive attitude in a way that might appear to condone or encourage it. These individuals are accountable for their own unique actions and attitudes. Whilst we appreciate your concerns about this storyline, we have no evidence to suggest that it has caused ‘widespread distress’ among audience members.”

[Read reaction to this response here.]

“Thank you for contacting us regarding BBC One’s ‘Holby City’ broadcast on 11 December. I understand you felt the storyline involving Serena and Bernie was misrepresentative and biased. It’s worth stressing, that ‘Holby City’ is a fictional, sometimes heightened drama, which has never shied away from telling challenging and difficult storylines. Although we don’t always condone the things our characters do or say all of the time, we don’t believe that they shouldn’t express their own set of behaviours in a variety of stories. We appreciate that storyline may sometimes resonate with our audiences, and while we carefully consider our storylines, let us assure you, that it’s never our intention to cause upset or offence. We do value your feedback about the programme. All complaints are sent to senior management and in this case the ‘Holby City’ programme every morning, and I’ve provided your comments on our audience feedback report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback within the BBC and help inform both current and future programming. Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.”

Stage 2 responses:

“Thank you for contacting us again. We are sorry to hear you were unhappy with our previous response. Holby City approaches LGBTQ relationships as it does heterosexual ones. In this particular episode it was the case that a female couple split up while both a male couple and a neuroatypical heterosexual couple got married. However, the characters of Bernie and Serena parted amicably, retaining a great respect and mutual affection for each other. They agreed that they would always love each other but that their lives and priorities were not currently in the same place. While we note you are unhappy with this story development we don’t believe such a storyline would fall outside the expectations of the majority of viewers. We appreciate however that is has resonated strongly with you personally and we have shared your views with the production team. While we have read and noted your points we don’t consider they suggest evidence of a possible breach of standards. We do not feel we can add more to our reply or answer further questions or points on this matter. If you remain dissatisfied about our decision you can contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU)…”

“Thank you for contacting us again. We are sorry to hear you were unhappy with our previous response. Holby City approaches LGBTQ relationships as it does heterosexual ones. In this particular episode it was the case that a female couple split up while both a male couple and a neuroatypical heterosexual couple got married. However, the characters of Bernie and Serena parted amicably, retaining a great respect and mutual affection for each other. They agreed that they would always love each other but that their lives and priorities were not currently in the same place. While we note you are unhappy with this story development we don’t believe such a storyline would fall outside the expectations of the majority of viewers. We appreciate however that is has resonated strongly with you personally and we have shared your views with the production team. Anyone who is personally affected by a storyline or by the issues covered in any of our dramas can find information and support on the BBC’s Action Line webpages (http://www.bbc.co.uk/actionline ) and for professional help can contact Samaritans. They provide free, confidential support and advice 24-hour-a-day on 116123, on their website at http://www.samaritans.org , and by email jo@samaritans.org. While we have read and noted your points we don’t consider they suggest evidence of a possible breach of standards. We do not feel we can add more to our reply or answer further questions or points on this matter. If you remain dissatisfied about our decision you can contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU)…”

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