The BBC has defended its coverage of last week’s state visit of Pope Benedict XVI after hundreds of complaints from viewers.

According to figures released by the corporation, there were 169 complaints that its coverage was too favourable and 197 that it was too critical.

There were also 384 complaints from viewers who felt there had been too much coverage of the visit, while 122 people contacted the BBC to commend it for its coverage.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “The Pope’s visit was of historic significance for millions of Catholics and to the wider population of the UK and it has provoked a range of public reactions.

“In the context of the millions of viewers who enjoyed our live events coverage of the five major ceremonies, the live news coverage on the BBC News Channel, the news bulletins, and the various documentaries, the complaints reflect some of the public’s opposing views about the visit.

“BBC News coverage of any subject is always approached in an impartial and accurate way, reflecting the different sides of any debate.”