The Queen’s death triggers a media bonanza in the works for decades

By David Bauder
AP Media Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — When news broke that Queen Elizabeth II was set to die, news outlets around the world burst into life, sending reporters to a royal castle in Scotland and setting up plans to cover the several decades.

At 96, the Queen’s passing was hardly a surprise. Yet Britain’s royal succession is a media event on steroids that will culminate in Monday’s live coverage of Westminster Abbey’s funeral services.

“It’s something that I’ve always sort of dreaded and anticipated and worried about,” said Deb Thompson, deputy London bureau chief for CBS News in the US, recalling nights spent obsessing over details.

So far, everything has gone well and she says she is amazed by the show.

Woe to those who didn’t plan ahead, though.

The director of the UK’s Foreign Press Association said the organization had been inundated with accreditation requests from television and radio broadcasters around the world. The association tries to help them navigate government and royal protocols.

“You would have thought the royal weddings had reached peak interest, but no,” director Deborah Bonetti said. “It’s a tsunami of people who don’t know what to do to broadcast these proceedings from London.”

Even accredited reporters fight for positions, “so if you’re just stealing…you’re unlikely to get one,” she said.

In Britain, well-prepared coverage of commemorations and ceremonial events has been deferential to misconduct, said University of Westminster communications professor Steven Barnett. Critical reflection on the Queen’s life or the role of the monarchy in modern society – which has been discussed around the world – has been almost entirely banned from social media, he said.

In a circle of wagons, The New York Times was criticized in Britain for an article that spoke of the “high” price of royal funerals paid for by public funds at a time when many Britons are suffering financially.

“There are no depths to which the @nytimes won’t stoop in their anti-British propaganda,” journalist Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times in London, tweeted.

In the United States, coverage has mostly focused on passing of an era and solemn services, said Marlene Koenig, who runs the Royal Musings blog from her home in Virginia.

“It’s been respectful,” she said. “I won’t use the term reverential. We must remember that the British monarch is an integral part of our history and our heritage. »

Mourners who sought to pay their last respects to the Queen as her coffin lay in state this week encountered crowds of reporters, microphones and video cameras as they waited to enter Westminster Hall and new when they leave.

Why did they come? What did this moment mean to them? How did you feel when you saw the coffin? Reporters asked to check the wristbands of people queuing to get an idea of ​​the number of waiters.

On Thursday, the media’s desire to show mourners walking past the monarch’s coffin as much as possible clashed with the control-conscious palace’s desire for dignity and decorum.

The palace released a list of rules for video coverage which included, for example, no depictions of the royal family “showing visible signs of distress” or “any inappropriate conduct” by members of the public or otherwise.

When one of the ceremonial guards next to the Queen’s coffin passed out, the BBC cut its live feed and use of the video showing what happened was restricted, although footage fixes have appeared on newspaper websites.

Many news outlets had long-term agreements on where their reporters would be placed for signing events. NBC News, for example, uses the same location it used to cover King Charles III’s wedding to Diana and Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton.

“Brits do the pumps and circumstance like no other,” said Tom Mazzarelli, executive producer of NBC’s “Today” show in the United States.

American broadcasters also participated in the Queen’s coverage. The TV stations are sending their biggest news stars to anchor Monday’s funeral coverage: Robin Roberts and David Muir of ABC News; NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and Hoda Kotb; CBS’s Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.

Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 was attended by a huge audience: 33 million in the United States alone on a Saturday morning.

Even without royalty, the funerals of major figures symbolize the end of an era and are often big TV draws. The prime-time funeral of former President Ronald Reagan in 2004 drew 35 million viewers, the Nielsen company said.

The Queen’s death received major coverage elsewhere in the world, often dictated or complicated by Britain’s relations with the countries where it was shown.

In Hong Kong, a former British colony ceded to China in 1997, most local news outlets carried reports of British ceremonies. But some TV stations have been carefully reporting on the city’s own tributes to the Queen.

The Now TV network edited a Facebook post and report showing Hong Kong residents leaving flowers at the British consulate to delete an interview with a resident who said a long line of people waiting to pay their respects to the Queen “shows what people want”.

Local media reported that Now TV’s pro-Beijing news chief ordered the changes. The network did not give an explanation.

Media coverage of the Queen’s death in India, once Britain’s largest colony, quickly faded. For older residents, the British royal family is a painful part of history, but for most Indians, it’s just another celebrity family.

In Syria, where President Bashar Assad sees Britain as part of a coalition funding insurgents in the 11-year conflict, state television paid little attention to the news.

The co-hosts of the main morning TV shows in Australia, a constitutional monarchy where the Queen was sovereign, traveled to London to cover the events. Regular guests of the programs were required to dress in dark clothing.

Extensive coverage in Japan has often drawn parallels to the state’s increasingly controversial funeral plans later this month for slain former leader Shinzo Abe.

Britain’s ceremonial events are “catnip for television networks,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, a former US network executive now dean of Hofstra University’s School of Communication.

But after more than a week they have their limits, said Barnett, the British professor.

“It’s gotten to the point where a lot of people think, ‘we’ve had enough now,'” he said.


Sylvia Hui, Samya Kullab and Jill Lawless from London; Bassem Mroue from Beirut, Lebanon; Mari Yamaguchi from Tokyo, Japan; Zen Soo from Hong Kong; Krutika Pathi from New Delhi, India; and Rod McGuirk of Canberra, Australia contributed to this report.


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