The BBC is turning to its most trusted figurehead, David Dimbleby, to anchor its coverage of the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
Details of exactly how Sunday’s state funeral service in Johannesburg will be covered remain unclear – largely because the event’s logistics have not yet been fully finalised – but the Corporation has confirmed that Dimbleby is the man chosen to narrate its coverage, which is expected to be extensive.
Dimbleby is the established anchor for the BBC’s broadcast of landmark events such as the State Opening of Parliament and the Remembrance Day service in Whitehall, and has covered many royal events as well as every General Election since 1979.
He will already be in the South African capital this Thursday, where he is chairing an edition of the BBC1 political debate show Question Time as a tribute to Mandela, whose death was announced last week.
The BBC was still unable to confirm the nature of its coverage of the funeral events, although some details have emerged of the commemorations which have presented South Africa with an enormous logistical challenge, with around 91 heads of state and government expected to attend.
Before the more formal state funeral, 80,000 people are expected to cram into the FNB stadium in Soweto for a tribute to Mandela on Tuesday.
When the three days of lying in state are over, Mr Mandela’s body will then be flown from an air force base in Pretoria to Qunu in the Eastern Cape for burial.
Qunu is where Mr Mandela grew up and later retired to.
The BBC has already stepped in to defend its coverage of Mandela’s death after 850 viewers complained that it had devoted too much airtime to the former South African president and not enough to the storms that lashed Britain’s eastern coast last week.
BBC News boss James Harding told the Corporation’s Newswatch programme on Friday that Mandela was a man of “singular significance” and the “most significant statesman of the last 100 years”.
“The decision-making is one around the significance of Nelson Mandela. Nobody needs a lecture on his importance but we are probably talking about the most important statesman, the most significant statesman, of the last 100 years, a man who defined freedom, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness. The importance of his life and marking his death seems extremely clear to us.”