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25 May 2012 Edition

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England’s republicans challenge uncritical royal coverage

QUEEN ELIZABETH’S DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS | BBC: IMPARTIAL REPORTER OR PALACE PR MACHINE?

• Republic leaked emails showing that the BBC refused to interview anyone with ‘a bad word to say against the queen’

‘We’re not asking the BBC to ignore the jubilee but simply to report it as a political event about which there are a wide range of views’ – Republic

THE BBC is always being accused by Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Conservative Party old fogeys of ‘left-wing bias’(!) but now the Beeb is being threatened with legal action by republicans in England over its uncritical coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

The anti-monarchy campaign group Republic (“Campaigning for a democratic alternative to the monarchy”) has served a “letter of claim” threatening to take the corporation to judicial review.

Republic says the BBC has breached its legal duty of impartiality by promoting and celebrating the royal jubilee rather than reporting the facts.

The letter describes the BBC’s coverage as “a vital campaigning tool for the monarchy in promoting its cause” and accuses the corporation of attempting to “influence members of the public to support the institution of monarchy”.

It singles out the BBC’s decision to co-organise a celebratory jubilee concert as representing “an outrageously blatant and complete disregard” for its obligations.

The BBC says the claim will be “vigorously opposed”.

Republic had already incurred the displeasure of BBC bosses after it leaked emails showing the BBC refused to interview anyone with a “bad word against the Queen” for its jubilee documentary.

The leak came just days after Republic wrote to Chris Patten, formerly Secretary of State for the North of Ireland and now the chair of the BBC Trust, to demand an investigation into “distortions, half-truths and fabrications” contained in the Diamond Queen series, presented by Andrew Marr.

Republic Chief Executive Graham Smith says:

“The BBC has a legal duty of impartiality when it comes to controversial subjects like the monarchy. Reporters are required by law to ensure that a full range of views and perspectives are heard. We hope this action will focus attention on the BBC’s obligations and lead to fundamental reform of its relationship with Buckingham Palace.

“We’re not asking the BBC to ignore the jubilee but simply to report it as a political event about which there are a wide range of views. All too often the BBC comes across as part of the royal PR machine - ignoring or dismissing the quarter of the population that wants to see the monarchy abolished and many more who wish to see it changed or challenged.”

He added:

“Polls show that support for the monarchy has actually weakened in the past year, while our campaign has continued to grow, yet the BBC acts as if the royal family is universally adored.

“The BBC must learn that it is there to report on the monarchy, not to celebrate and promote it. The same level of journalistic scrutiny must be applied to the palace, the royal family and all their PR events that is applied to politicians and other public servants.”

www.republic.org.uk

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