With viewing figures for the BBC’s coverage of the Diamond Jubilee weekend peaking at 11.9 million, it is unsurprising that the corporation has since received over 4,000 complaints. It has become incredibly difficult for the publicly funded – and publicly accountable – corporation to provide a service appropriate to a vastly diverse audience.
This is a problem the BBC faces in all of its broadcasts, seeking to appeal to the population as a whole, while maintaining the highest quality. The range of award-winning dramas, and historic or scientific programs that have appeared on the BBC over the last year are a reflection of getting this exactly right. But there was clearly something not quite right with the Jubilee broadcast. Executive Producer, Ben Weston, intended to have a light engagement rather than a potentially dull repeat of the funereal Royal Wedding coverage last year where ITV was praised with better capturing the jubilant mood.
…personality rather than institutional support…
Attempting to bring a lighter touch to proceedings is laudable; it just seems that the BBC failed badly in its execution. The decision to use younger presenters such as Fearne Cotton and Matt Baker was intended to appeal to a younger generation, potentially alienated by the traditional approach of say, the Dimblebys. Yet the BBC went too far and reverted to petty celebrity interviews and stunts – in exactly the same way the infamous 2010 election boat party. What on earth does Paloma Faith have to do with the Jubilee? Those now infamous jubilee sick bags were frankly just inappropriate. Neil Midgley sums up dilemma the BBC faces when he writes in The Telegraph of the tension “between entertainment and news, between serious and showbiz, and between grey hair and blonde…”
It is no coincidence that these same tensions are being experienced within the monarchy itself, an institution equally at needs to modernise and reflect the desires and expectations of the population at large. Current polls suggest that 69% of the population are in favour of the monarchy and the vast crowds that descended on London last week, as they did for the Royal Wedding last year, are most certainly proof of the positive public attitude towards the monarchy. However, it would seem that support for the Royal Family is support for individual characters and personality rather than institutional support for the monarchy. People flocked to the streets last weekend to celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II because she is a much respected figure who has tirelessly given over her life to the service of the nation. It is very difficult to imagine similar jubilant crowds on the streets of London if the Prince of Wales were ever to be crowned King.
…absent from the Buckingham Palace balcony and seemingly banished…
Prince Charles’s speech to his mother during the Jubilee did much to improve a public image tarnished over his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. He summed up the mood of many when thanking the Queen “for making us proud to be British”. And yet he lacks any of the charisma so vital in providing legitimacy to the monarchy in the 21st century. The Royal Family clearly recognise the value in developing their public image through William, Catherine and Harry, indeed it was telling that the Duke of York, together with his daughters, were absent from the Buckingham Palace balcony and seemingly banished to the secondary barge during the river pageant.
There is no doubt that the public would rather see William as heir to the throne over his father. He represents a new era for the Royal Family, and together with Prince Harry is the best hope for the survival of the British monarchy in years to come. Popularity is key to maintaining legitimacy. Regrettably, the Prince of Wales continues to lack this.