LONDON — The BBC has been accused of bowing to pressure from the British royal family following a last-minute decision to pull controversial documentary “Reinventing The Royals” from its schedules.
TV listings magazine Radio Times, which broke the story, alleges that lawyers representing members of the royal family intervened at the 11th hour, which led BBC execs to shelve the show.
In a statement, the U.K. public broadcaster said it was “delaying broadcast” of the program, which was due to air on Jan. 4, until “later in the New Year while a number of issues including the use of archive footage are resolved.”
BBC news chief James Harding made the decision to spike the broadcast, Radio Times claimed.
The documentary, which is presented by Steve Hewlett, tracks attempts by Prince Charles to salvage his relationship with the British public following the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
In the program, Sandy Henney, who was Charles’ press secretary at the time of Diana’s death, describes the situation when she was hired in 1993: “He was getting some pretty virulent criticism — bad father, unloving husband. I think he was pretty hurt… if you’ve got a middle-aged balding man and a beautiful princess, it’s a no-brainer as to who is going to get the media coverage.”
After Diana’s death, the public began to turn against the monarchy, Henney says in the docu. “I remember briefing one of our private secretaries on the phone saying, ‘I know you’re seeing this on television but you really have to be here to feel the atmosphere. The people here are really anti-monarchy.’ I was really worried about where it was going to go.”
The documentary then follows attempts by spin doctor Mark Bolland to repair Charles’ tattered public image, and win public approval for his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, whom Charles later married.
The program also includes an interview with Tom Bradby, the political editor of U.K. broadcaster ITV, and its former royal correspondent. Bradby, who is close to Charles’ sons, William and Harry, describes in the program the princes’ disdain for the press. “William and Harry were very angry. They thought that the media had hounded their mother to death. I don’t mean they vaguely thought that — they actually thought that’s what had happened.”
In an article for the Radio Times, Hewlett writes: “For William, protecting his personal privacy and that of his family has perhaps understandably become a virtual obsession. But with anything not classed as ‘public duty’ regarded as off limits, and in a new media age dominated by the internet, with all the accompanying expectations of openness and transparency, there are real concerns even within the royal household over the sustainability of William’s approach. Can a future monarch be so media shy in the modern age? Many doubt it.”