Friday 21 September 2012, 16:35
"Shame on BBC News for placing far too much emphasis on the Kate Middleton photos story all Friday evening and beyond"
"What has happened to the respected BBC News? It used to tell us what mattered and what is important to the nation.....If trivial titillation is all the British public is interested in now, the BBC news department is certainly feeding it to them".
Those were the reactions of two Feedback listeners to the news that Princess Kate had lost her top and that, earlier, Prince Harry had lost his bottoms.
How should BBC News have responded?
That was the subject of the interview I did with the Head of the BBC Multimedia Newsroom, Mary Hockaday, this week. Many other listeners felt that, though important, the Royals' stories paled into insignificance compared with the Muslim demonstrations in the Middle East, and the killing, or possible assassination, of the US Envoy to Libya. The BBC has often had difficulty in reporting Royal scandals.
When Edward 8th was squiring Mrs Simpson around town and on yachts in the Mediterranean, events gleefully covered in the American and European papers, Lord Reith's response was to remain silent. Only when the issue was raised in parliament was it reported on his BBC.
Later, when Princess Diana's affairs were featured on the front pages, they were usually reported, if at all, in the BBC newspaper reviews, not in the main bulletins. The broadsheet newspapers have tried various ways of responding to these sorts of Royal stories.
When the Independent newspaper began it announced that it would not run many Royal stories, and when the first reports about the breakdown in the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana were made public, several other serious papers were also rather "sniffy" about them.
However the stories turned out to be largely true and the constitutional consequences of the deteriorating relationship of the heir to the throne and his wife were significant.
Can the same be said of the Duchess of Cambridge's decision to remove her top while sunbathing, unaware that she was visible from the road, hundreds of metres away? I talked to Mary Hockaday about these questions in this week's Feedback.
Here is our interview:
Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.
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