“Beware the royals,” said former BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey when she was asked about the worst nightmare the new BBC director general, George Entwistle, could face.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
“Beware the royals,” said former BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey when she was asked about the worst nightmare the new BBC director general, George Entwistle, could face. “It’s always something to do with the royal family that gets you into trouble,” Heggessey told the Edinburgh TV festival last month. How right she was.
She was speaking from experience, having once been criticised for downgrading (she preferred “modernising”) the corporation’s plans for coverage of the Queen Mother’s funeral.
The newsreader Peter Sissons subsequently provoked a storm of protest when he wore a burgundy rather than a black tie in the news broadcast announcing the Queen Mother’s death in 2002.
Sissons was also criticised for his manner when interviewing the late Queen Mother’s niece, Margaret Rhodes, with the Daily Mail accusing the BBC of “slovenliness, insensitivity and downright tastelessness” in its coverage. The newsreader, since retired, admitted it was not his finest hour but described the media criticism as “lurid and malicious”.
BBC1’s then controller, Peter Salmon, ran into trouble two years earlier when he decided against a live broadcast of the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday pageant. That did not cost him his job – unlike another incumbent, Peter Fincham, who resigned after the “crowngate” saga of 2007 Fincham, now director of TV at ITV, paid the price after a misleadingly edited trailer for a BBC1 royal documentary appeared to show the Queen storming out of a photoshoot with Annie Leibovitz. He later recalled: “I worked hard to become a BBC insider … I quite quickly realised I wasn’t.”
Entwistle had his own taste of royal scandal even before he got the top BBC job: as the corporation’s director of “vision”, he was closely involved in its much-criticised coverage of the Queen’s diamond jubilee river pageant, in June.
Beset by technical problems because of bad weather, the BBC coverage drew widespread criticism, with claims that it was inane and trivial. Entwistle admitted last week the coverage had been “disappointing”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010