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Shared television history

Peter Knowles | 16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Ten years on from the death of Princess Diana, BBC Parliament will show the original broadcast of the funeral service in Westminster Abbey. Prefaced by David Dimbleby, the programme will run through the day exactly as viewers followed the events of ten years ago, from the first movement of the cortege through to the gates of Althorp.

bbcparliamentlogo.jpgIt was a remarkable day, whether you were in London among the crowds or watching on television. From the first distraught gasp as the coffin left Kensington Palace to the flower throwing along the motorway in London’s outskirts, there was no precedent for this. Commentators went back to the funeral of Admiral Nelson to make their comparisons.

The grief of the immediate family shared the stage with the pageantry of a ceremonial funeral. Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a reading, and family politics became state politics in the eulogy of Earl Spencer.

Sir Elton John’s performance of Candle in the Wind is being shown again, I think, for the first time in this broadcast.

Diana, Princess of Wales' funeral cortegeWe did think long and hard about whether such a deeply personal event as a young mother’s funeral could be treated as part of our shared television history, and broadcast again in this way. Given the other public events on this tenth anniversary, including the commemorative concert for Diana and the Service of Thanksgiving in the Guard’s Chapel (BBC One, 1100, Friday 31 August) we took the view that the re-broadcast could be part of that sequence of programming.

BBC Parliament has taken whole programmes from the television archive before, for national occasions. We showed the Queen’s Coronation on its 50th anniversary and the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill on its 40th.

In contrast to the informality of most of present day life, BBC Parliament offers space for events which otherwise may only be witnessed in short clips. In the last few months we’ve shown contemporary speeches, in full, from the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Authenticity is a hallmark of this channel – stemming from our core remit to show parliamentary debate and political speeches in full and without commentary. In the broadcast of the funeral of Princess Diana, the channel will keep to the original format: showing the programme 4 by 3. This allows you to watch the whole picture, undistorted, as it was meant to be seen.

The programme begins at 0825 on Saturday 1 September and runs through until 1605.


What I'd quite like to see is the programming from the day the news broke rather than the funeral... any chance of that?

It's absolutely fantastic that BBC Parliament have been allowed to dip into the archives over the past couple of years and broadcast these programmes in full, as originally broadcast.
No other BBC channel would be able to give over their schedule to such events and long may it continue. I agree with Simon, it would be interesting to see some of the news from the Sunday. In the days before News 24 we were given BBC World for the first time instead BBC1 closing down and with a network news programme across all channels for many hours, it was certainly a unique day for television news - something we probably won't ever see again.

  • 3.
  • At 10:17 AM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Ned Ludd wrote:

"Deeply personal"? This was a state funeral!

Let's keep our heads screwed on about Diana, shall we? I very much doubt anyone would have described, say, Winston Churchill's funeral as "deeply personal".

  • 4.
  • At 03:56 PM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

Hm 4 comments (including this one!) in 2 days, is it possible not everyone is as interested as you think??

Re Simon's comment, number 1: It would certainly be interesting to see news coverage of events re-played, but too big a stretch to BBC Parliament's remit for this channel to be the vehicle. We concentrate on events with a strong political importance: national or state occasions (including Churchill's funeral) and general elections, so far. After the re-play of the funeral of Princess Diana, we plan to show the 1987 general election on Friday 5th October.

  • 6.
  • At 10:24 PM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • James2001 wrote:

Good to see your decision to broadcast the coverage in original 4:3 (presumably pilalrboxed, like the election replayed). I would like to see this spread throughout the corporation. When watching various shows featuring archive footage, there's nothing I hate worse than seeing 4:3 sourced footage zoomed up to fill the screen. So what if a few people moan? People have got used to letterboxing on DVDs to the point where it's not even mentioned any more and the "pan and scan" film is all but extinct. Make pillarboxing 4:3 content withing 16:9 programming commonplace and in a short time no-one will even notice or comment.

  • 7.
  • At 01:00 PM on 01 Sep 2007,
  • Dave Baldwin wrote:

I recently transferred the news coverage from video tape to dvd and cut out several hours due to endless repetition. In the end I kept an hour from the early morning and another hour when things were settling down in the afternoon. I am glad of the chance to watch the 'as live' coverage of the funeral now for the first time. As I remember ten years ago, tv, radio and newspapers had swamped everyone with the story so I didn't watch the funeral.

  • 8.
  • At 01:52 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • jj wrote:

I wonder if Paris Hilton will get the same treatment? She is after all the 'modern' version of Saint Diana of Harrods.

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