Even by the crudest standards of the BBC, there is something utterly ironic about airing a major two-part documentary about informing wars between members of the royal family while the embers of the Martin Bashir affair still glow.
And how counterproductive and foolish of the Corporation to refuse to show the palace tonight’s opening episode, entitled The Princess And The Press, before showing it.
Is it any wonder that courtiers are thinking ‘very carefully’ about future projects with the BBC where collaboration is essential, with next year’s platinum anniversary tribute to the Queen right at the top of the list?
It is highly unusual for all three royal households, representing the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prince William, to band together in a threat of a possible boycott of our national broadcaster, but it shows what is at stake. And it underscores a shared sense of collective anger at the program.
It is highly unusual for all three royal households to unite in a threat of a possible boycott of our national broadcaster, writes Richard Kay
The BBC declined to show the palace tonight’s opening titled Princess And The Press, writes Richard Kay
A veil of secrecy has been drawn around the content of the programme, which was written and presented by the ambitious Amol Rajan, a self-proclaimed Republican who once labeled the monarchy “absurd” and the media a “propaganda outlet” for the royals. family. So far, so predictable.
But while no one has objected to his star host’s personal opinion, the BBC may have caused an unexpected response from Palace by denying it a right to reply.
The Palace rightly states that it is very difficult to comment without seeing the program or knowing in detail what it is claiming.
Officials are particularly concerned about reports, unveiled yesterday in the Mail on Sunday, that the film suggests that William and his brother – or advisers working for them – have ‘intended each other’ in the media about the damaging effects surrounding the bitter departure of Harry and Meghan from royal life.
Only at this point do assistants insist that this is the opposite of the truth. They claim there was in fact a refusal to be dragged into a public battle of words between the brothers, despite the provocation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s partial Oprah Winfrey interview and the regular “unhelpful” interventions by the friends of the couple.
Claims that William and his staff had leaked a story about Harry’s mental wellbeing were cut from a prime time ITV documentary hours before it was due to air, writes Richard Kay
Over the years, relations between the monarchy and the Corporation have often been tense, writes Richard Kay (pictured with Princess Eugenie and husband Jack Brooksbank).
When all this is set against the trust issues exposed by Lord Dyson’s investigation into how Martin Bashir tricked Princess Diana into giving her infamous 1995 Panorama interview, the timing of this latest program looks not only appalling, but also grotesque. It seems extraordinary with all the baggage of that episode still raw that the BBC showed so little sensitivity.
Over the years, the relationship between the monarchy and the Corporation has often been tense, but simmering tensions over Bashir have pushed it to a new and toxic depth.
Prince William was outspoken in his attack on both the Panorama reporter’s deceptive behavior and the BBC’s shameful cover-up about his activities.
He said his mother was “failed not only by a rogue reporter, but also by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way instead of asking tough questions.”
The consequences of the Bashir case are far from over.
The broadcaster has paid around £750,000 to former graphic designer Matt Wiessler – made a scapegoat in the scandal after he raised concerns with his bosses at the BBC that fake bank statements Bashir had asked him to spot had been used to frame the Diana interview. to secure – and other claims are in the pipeline.
Pictured – Zara Tindall, Granddaughter of the Queen
BBC reporter Martin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana in 1995
Against all that backdrop, how on earth could the BBC not understand that such a potentially incendiary program would not provoke a strong response from Buckingham Palace and the other royal households?
As the Mail on Sunday reported, royal sources have condemned the documentary as ‘tittle-tattle’.
And last night, nervousness at the BBC grew, despite claims the film will provide ‘context’ for William and Harry’s relationship with the media.
“There’s been turmoil in the hierarchy about the film for a while and that’s why when it comes to what’s in it, they’ve played things so close to their chest,” says a Corporation figure. “At the same time, you wonder if they’ve thought carefully about how it will be received.”
One area is the so-called briefing war. I understand that any suggestions that the brothers sanctioned aides to plant bastards against each other will be vigorously rejected.
Amol Rajan presents The Princes and The Press
Earlier claims suggesting William and his staff had leaked a story about Harry’s mental wellbeing, for example, were cut from a prime time ITV documentary hours before it was set to air in July.
Mr Rajan started working on his program before the Covid-19 pandemic and had interviewed journalists who regularly report on the royal family.
Questions they were asked included whether they became ‘too close’ to the royal family, whether the relationship between the press and the royal family is ‘sycophantic’ and how stories about the royal house are presented or ‘spun’.
Whatever tonight’s program and next week’s second part, one thing is certain: the palace’s intervention has guaranteed it will have a much larger audience than its BBC2 slot could have originally generated.