UK broadcasters battle monarchy over control of Queen’s memorial footage

Palace has said TV channels can only retain an hour of footage from events during the mourning period

British television channels are in a battle with the monarchy over who controls the historic record of Queen Elizabeth II’s commemorations, after Buckingham Palace insisted broadcasters could only retain an hour of footage for future use.

The BBC, ITV and Sky News have been given until Monday to produce a 60-minute compilation of clips they would like to keep from ceremonial events held across the 10 days of mourning for the Queen. The royal household will then consider whether to veto any proposed inclusions.

Once the process is complete, the vast majority of other footage from ceremonial events will then be taken out of circulation. Any news outlets wishing to use unapproved pieces of footage would have to apply to the royal family on a case-by-case basis, even for material that has already been broadcast to tens of millions of people.

“It’s completely illogical and doesn’t make sense,” said one journalist with knowledge of the negotiations. “We’re furious that they’re trying to restrict how people can relive sombre but important historic events.”

The negotiations shed further light on how the royal family has shaped news coverage of the Queen’s death. The former editor of ITN, Stewart Purvis, has said the policy is tantamount to self-censorship.

Buckingham Palace did not respond to a request for comment.

The Guardian has previously revealed that the palace vetoed several clips from the Queen’s memorial services and banned them from being reused in news reports and social media clips. Royal staff had a WhatsApp group including senior executives from the BBC, ITV and Sky News which they used to control which footage could be used. A member of the royal household would send a message every five minutes either approving or refusing the use of the previous block of video.

There was reluctant acceptance of this approach among British broadcasters, particularly when the palace suggested footage was intruding on the personal grief of royals. But now the battle has shifted towards who controls the historical narrative of the Queen’s death.

One journalist said: “We all get that moments of individual distress might not want to be revisited. That’s a different decision to having to a wide shot removed.”

According to sources at the broadcasters, the palace has said they can retain the rights to show up to 12 minutes of footage from the hour-long Westminster Abbey funeral service, 12 minutes from the Windsor castle committal service and only a few minutes from each of the various vigils that took place as the Queen’s coffin lay in Westminster Hall in London and St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

One particular bone of contention is the palace’s assertion that it has a veto over the use of footage of King Charles III’s accession council. This was the lengthy event where the new monarch was formally proclaimed in a televised ceremony involving leading politicians, overseen by Penny Mordaunt.

Broadcasters have been told they are allowed to retain a maximum of 12 minutes of footage from this constitutionally important occasion. Longer clips would need to be a cleared with the royal household.

The concern is that the royal veto will be used to scrub mildly embarrassing moments from the historic record. At one point the king was seen to be irritated by the presence of a pen on the table at the accession council. The palace is also believed to have raised concerns about a shot from Westminster Hall that featured Mike Tindall, the husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, checking his watch while observing the Queen lying in state.

Purvis told LBC he had concerns that the royal family had asserted the ability to retrospectively take footage out of circulation. “Once it’s been transmitted, once we recorded in our own homes and our own video recorders and suddenly we’re being told that certain sequences didn’t happen, we can’t show them again and it’s just unrealistic,” he said.

“There’s no other way of interpreting that than effectively not censorship but basically self-censorship. It was wonderful coverage and I think the palace will reflect that they have made a mistake.”


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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