Press faces royal wedding day dilemmas

April 8, 2011

Royals9.jpgMedia companies, particularly from Britain and North America, are pouring a lot of resources into covering the April 29 wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton in London. The amount of money they are spending, and the temptation to decide what their millions of viewers want to see, could cloud editorial judgment on the day should things not go according to plan.

One potential problem could be if a small number of protesters turn violent, and attempt to “hijack” an event which the British government believes will be watched in some shape or form by more than a quarter of the Earth’s population. This happened only recently in London when a march by up to half a million people protesting at spending cuts by the government was overshadowed by the violent actions of a few hundred “radicals”. The British broadcasters generally focussed more closely on the few than on the many, but would they do the same later this month?

Certainly the royal press teams and the monarch herself will be keen for media companies to stay “on message”. They will see the wedding of the generally popular young couple as a good opportunity to bolster the royal family, and anything to spoil the big day would irk them no end. So far the press has been generally compliant, giving Middleton and William a relatively easy ride and producing overwhelmingly positive coverage of the marriage. Of course, there may be no violence on the day at all, but were things to turn nasty, would the broadcasters point their cameras away from the pomp and pageantry of the royal occasion to capture smashed windows and police in riot gear?

Another temptation may be to give the impression that there are more people lining the streets than is actually the case. There is no particular reason to doubt the event will be well attended (the wedding between Prince Charles and Diana drew an estimated crowd of 600,000 people to the streets of central London), but should it “flop” in terms of numbers, would this be accurately reflected in coverage? Graham Smith, who heads up the anti-monarchy Republic group, said he would be watching broadcasters like the BBC carefully on the day, ready to make a formal complaint if what he sees on his TV screen does not reflect what is going on on the street.

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