The ABC is supposed to be an independent public broadcaster. So is the BBC. And yet the royal family – our royal family, still – can apparently exert so much pressure over the two public broadcasters that they will cancel a program that might satirise a public event:
New wedding coverage conditions issued over the Easter break state that footage cannot be used “in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content”.
The restrictions were agreed between Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales, and the BBC.
With the consequence that, in Australia:
The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary was due to air on ABC2 from 7:00pm AEST on Friday, offering viewers a satirical take on the royal extravaganza.
But just two days before Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot, the one-off live special – promised to be “uninformed and unconstitutional” – has been cancelled due to restrictions imposed by the royal family.
Oooh. Because the BBC has control over all footage of central London taken on Friday.
I don’t care whether The Chaser are still funny – that’s not the point. The point is the extraordinary attempt to impose control over a public broadcaster in relation to a public event, and its craven caving to that pressure. Oh, the BBC threatened to refuse to let you use its wedding footage? So bloody what! It’s being broadcast on every other bloody channel. Call their bluff! Go in much harder! Have some bloody balls!
The ABC’s credibility as an independent and fearless media organisation is at stake here. Because if the pathetic would-be autocrats in Clarence House can get this sort of leverage by threatening to withhold footage of something that’s going to be on every Australian TV channel anyway, then what will the really powerful get away with when they’ve got some serious leverage to wield?
ELSEWHERE: Joshua Gans is likewise unimpressed.