The story of Ronnie Branning swapping her dead child for another baby has not only drawn criticism from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids) awareness campaigners but has also resulted in the BBC receiving more than 8,400 complaints.
The Beeb have now decided to end the story (which is the most complained about in the show’s 25-year history) earlier than first planned and it will end in the spring after baby Tommy is reunited with his mother, Kat Slater.
Samantha Womack, who plays Ronnie in the show, has endured verbal attacks by the public due to the current storyline, and it has been announced today that she will be leaving the show.
So what is all the fuss about?
The parenting website Mumsnet was flooded with complaints over the current storyline, prompting it to write a letter to the BBC suggesting that “as is all too common, a bereaved mother has been portrayed as deranged and unhinged”.
Ann Diamond, long time Sids awareness campaigner argues that the baby swap storyline was a “crass twist to an otherwise credible storyline” that had not done “one iota of good in educating a young audience about cot death”
For me, I totally agree that the whole issue of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a very important one that needs handling sensitively and one that requires continuing education.
I have also learnt to accept that the Beeb is about making a programme that has attracted high viewing figures over its 25 year reign and needs to continue to do so.
Storylines over the past years have always touched on areas that will affect some more than others and that will be percieved as being far more controversial for a minority and big stories such as Stacey’s bi-polar mental illness, Syed being a gay Muslim, Phil’s crack cocaine addiction, Lucas murdering Owen, Whitney’s relationship with Tony the paedophile all being covered over the last couple of years. Previous to that we have had domestic violence, murder, adultery, Aids, incest …. the list is endless.
So for me personally, I do not have a massive problem with the current storyline. There is a choice, watch it, or don’t. I actually chose not to watch it over New Year…not because I found the whole concept of a soap covering the death of a baby and the breakdown and anguish of the mothers involved, but because I have a life and had far more positive and entertaining ways of spending the New Year.
The controversial cot death/baby swap storyline may have drawn 8,400 complaints but ratings are the highest the soap’s had in a year with 11.1 million tuned in to watch the episode aired on the Tuesday directly after the new years episodes. Average EastEnders ratings have risen to 10.7million too, 300,000 more than usual, since the gruesome storyline began on New Year’s Eve.
So yes, the Beeb may have gone a step to far for a minority, with the whole baby swap thing but hey it is only a made up story…it is not real people. My thoughts are with Womack who has to put up with the abuse shown by the shallow thinking and pure ignorance of those who have lost their grip on reality.