BBC Radio 4 is under fire after this morning’s paper review highlighted a story about otters from The Guardian rather than its splash about the UK now having the worst Covid-19 death toll in Europe.

The newspaper was one of a handful to draw attention to the shocking figure on its front page today, but the radio’s discussion of the papers did not mention it.

READ MORE: Covid-19: Newspaper front pages shy away from death toll news

Shortly before 8am, the presenters went through each newspaper’s key story of the day, which in the main was Professor Neil Ferguson’s resignation following his flouting of lockdown rules.

The host said: “The headline in The Telegraph which broke the story is ‘lockdown professor steps down after breaking rules to meet married lover’.”

The co-host continued: “The Daily Mail’s take on the story is ‘professor lockdown quits over trysts with married lover’. While The Sun’s headline is ‘prof lockdown broke lockdown to get his trousers down’.”

They also highlights the Daily Express’s splash, which complained: “How dare China spy on our vaccine labs”. Theresa May’s column calling for more international co-operation between nations in the coronavirus fight was also mentioned.

The National:

However when the presenters got to The Guardian – which has the unmissable front-page headline “UK coronavirus death toll is now the worst in Europe” – they highlighted a story which wasn’t even on the front page about otters.

The presenter said: “The Guardian reports that researchers from Exeter University have been trying to work out why otters play with pebbles and small rocks, juggling them or rolling them around with their paws. Theories include the possibility that there’s a way of improving co-ordination or foraging skills but after studying 48 otters at three wildlife parks in the UK, the scientists noticed that the animals did it more when they hadn’t been fed. This led them to conclude that hunger is the main reason although they still have to work out why.”

That was then the end of the papers review segment. Novara Media posted a shortened version of the broadcast on its Twitter to highlight the issue.

Liam Young shared the clip, writing: "Watch this and gasp (again) at the BBC."

Replying, Twitter user Laura Heeks asked: "This isn't real is it? That's a joke right? They didn't just talk about otters did they?"

Another user wrote: "You have to say though..Otters playing with pebbles is a much more important subject that the highest death toll in Europe.. They sure have their priorities right on the Today programme..."

Radio 4 did mention the death toll story at another point in the programme, but it is unclear why they later switched to the otter research news.

A spokesperson from the BBC said: "“his story has been widely covered across the BBC – last night it was the lead on the BBC News at Six and Ten, the radio bulletins, the BBC News website and covered in the paper review. This morning the Guardian splash was highlighted on the newspaper reviews on BBC Breakfast, online, and two of the three Today programme newspaper reviews.

"Any suggestion that the BBC has somehow not covered the story by highlighting a few minutes from one radio programme while ignoring the rest of our output, including the remainder of the Today programme itself, is disingenuous.”