If you're expecting the Australian media's certain blanket coverage of the royal royal wedding later this year to be almost intolerable, spare a thought for the many millions of British republicans. There, even the apparently impartial BBC shamelessly "fawns" over the royal family and purposefully avoids publishing dissenting comment. David Donovan reports.
In a press release issued yesterday, the large and well coordinated UK republican pressure group Republic has accused the BBC of "widespread and institutionalised bias in favour of the monarchy and has called for an urgent meeting with BBC executives to discuss how the bias discriminates against millions of British viewers".
The Republic campaign director Graham Smith said in the release:
"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 a views and perspectives are heard. All too often, however, the BBC comes across as part of the royal PR machine - ignoring or dismissing the twenty percent of the population that wants to see the monarchy abolished and many more who wish to see it changed or challenged."
In a letter to David Jordan, the BBC's director of editorial policy, Republic says the BBC's "fawning" coverage of the monarchy since the announcement of the royal wedding has had the effect of "excluding, offending, disparaging and marginalising Britain's 10 to 12 million republicans".
The letter urges BBC bosses to re-categorise the monarchy as a 'controversial subject' within its editorial guidelines, a step which would ensure balanced coverage of the issue. The group has requested an urgent meeting with BBC executives and says it will pursue the matter through 'parliament and the courts' if the broadcaster does not address its concerns.
The action has already had a reaction, with a story on the influential BBC Radio 4 news being aired today. Republic also stated on Twitter today that a senior BBC correspondent has told them executives are "willing to talk".
The evidence of bias seems persuasive. Since the announcement of the engagement in November, according to Republic, the BBC News website has published over 100 stories related to the royals, many of which simply relay information provided by the palace press office. while only one makes any substantial reference to Republic or republicanism.
The letter to the BBC's editorial policy controller also says:
"It is clear to us that the wedding is being used as part of this continuing PR campaign to shore up support for the monarchy and for William Wales as future head of state."
"It is understandable that the palace would seek to do this. Every institution seeks to promote and justify itself. It is also appropriate for the palace to provide opportunities for their supporters to join in any celebrations they may hold. What is not appropriate however is for the BBC to join in those celebrations, to allow itself to be co-opted by the palace press office or to abandon its usually high standards of impartiality when reporting an event such as the royal wedding."
Graham Smith says that Republicans are not ruling out legal action in their campaign against BBC's alleged lack of impartiality and balance:
"If the BBC is not prepared to change its approach then we'll look at all options, including legal action. The BBC's standards of impartiality are usually extremely high - we simply want to ensure it applies them to the monarchy."