Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding coverage

I got up at 3 a.m, to watch the Royal Wedding coverage on BBC America, which was taking the BBC 1 feed.

Although the coverage was devoid of commercials, I have to say I was disappointed by the coverage. It was BBC cameras in the Abbey, so everyone got the same feeds.  Lead anchor Huw Edwards was competent, but not inspiring, and the other reporters in the field (outside the Abbey or in Trafalgar Square) were all right with the exception of Fearne Cotton and Alex Jones.  William acknowledged the Americans joining in with BBC America, which I thought nice.  But he and the others covering the wedding could have done a lot better.  There were not that many celebrities at the wedding, but did we really have to see a dozen shots of the Beckmans or Elton John and his partner.  The BBC largely ignored the British and foreign royals, although Williams identified Lalla Salma of Morocco as Princess Lalla Salma of Thailand.    Actually Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand was in front of Morocco's consort.

I think viewers would have enjoyed knowing that King Michael of Roumania, who celebrates his 90th birthday in October, attended the weddings of Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales.  Three generations.  Or that Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia's is the Queen godson and he was baptised at the Abbey.  No attempt to explain why the Crown and Crown Princess of Greece was accompanied by only one of their children, Prince Konstantine-Alexios.  Most people would not have known that the young prince is William's godson.  The coverage seemed stilted, oh yea, a royal wedding, we have do to this.  But I do not think the BBC was able to harness the emotion to capture the pomp, the circumstance, and the panoply.  It seemed contrived and stilted. 

I did set the DVR for NBC's coverage.  NBC treated the Royal Wedding as a news event.  The Today Show will celebrate its 60th year on the air in early 2012.  The program is under the auspices of the news division, and is a combination of heavy news and fluff.  The program's producers and anchors largely treated the wedding (weeks in advance as a major event).  Meredith Viera spent a few days in London several weeks ago for pre-wedding coverage. One of her reports was a tour of the Abbey by the Dean of Westminster. 

All of the US networks hired British experts.  NBC had the Daily Express's Camila Tominey, along with historian Andrew Roberts, The Daily Telegraph's Celia Walden and Martin Bashir, among others.  I watched NBC's coverage today.  I was not disappointed. No one is perfect, but on balance, NBC largely got it right. There were fun pieces, usually centered around hats, but the wedding was treated as a major NEWS event.  Camilla and Andrew were more than talking hats, they offered good background information - and The Today Show's producers did their homework.   A week or so before the wedding, Meredith showed the Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley, who covered the Prince of Wales' wedding in 1981.  Brokaw left the program a year or so later to become the anchor of the NBC Evening News.

The current NBC Evening News anchor Brian Williams was in London to be a part of the coverage, but returned to the US to head to Alabama after the horrendous tornadoes.  Lester Holt, who anchors the Today Show on the weekend and the Evening News,  also returned to home for the same reason.

Royal watchers on this side of the Pond wanted to watch BBC America because there would be no commercials.  NBC had limited commercials in the first hour of coverage, and then nothing until after the wedding was over.  No voice overs, no commentary during the service with one exception:  the anchors and their British experts discussed the ceremony while the register was being signed. 

I was very impressed with Tominey, but Andrew Robarts needs a crash course in royal history.  He said the royal family did not use the balcony until after World War II, and then changed to the 1930s ... well, the balcony was used in the 1920s, certainly after the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1923 and again when they returned from their tour of Australia.  Roberts also misidentified the Duchess of Kent, calling her the Duchess of Gloucester, but Camilla quickly corrected him.

When he was asked about Beckham's medal,  Roberts said he had an OBE, Order of the British Empire.  The O stands for Officer of the Order of the British Empire. 

The two British experts also made a rather huge gaffe as Princes William and Harry walked toward the aisle.  The two princes stopped in front of a group of people to say hello.  Roberts stated that they were talking to the Middletons, which made no sense at all as Catherine's mother had not yet left the Goring Hotel, and Catherine's father was still at the hotel with his daughter.   Neither British commentator recognized that William was talking with his Aunt Sarah and several cousins, while Harry chatted with Aunt Jane and acknowledged Uncle Charles, as in the Spencer family. [I found it amusing that none of the British commentators recognized the Spencers, but perhaps it is not all that unusual.  Some years ago, I was covering Queen Sonja's visit to Washington, D.C., for Leif Erikson Day.  A young Secret Service agent was not allowing an older distingiushed gentleman to pass the barrier and enter the VIP area. I looked at the agent, and said -- that's former Vice President Walter Mondale -- who is Norwegian-American -- and was to take part in the ceremony. The gate opened and Vice President Mondale was able to get to his seat before the queen arrived.]

 No one, the BBC included, noted that William walked right by Lord Spencer and did not say a word to him.  Harry's off-again-on-again girlfriend, Chelsy Davys was seated several rows behind the Spencer siblings.  It is a matter of fact that the relationship between Lord Spencer and his royal nephews is cool and distant.  The two princes are close to their maternal aunts.  [Prince William and Prince Harry are also not close to Aunt Anne.]     It is no coincidence that none of William's maternal family had a role in the wedding.

Diana's three siblings and their children were invited to the evening dinner-dance, which was limited to close (as in genealogical) family and friends.  The Duchess of Cambridge is not close to her Uncle Gary, her mother's brother, yet he was invited to the intimate dinner dance, hosted by the Prince of Wales.

Queen Elizabeth's four children live largely separate lives, and rarely socialize together, apart from major events, such as a wedding.   The baptism of the Princess Royal's first grandchild -- and the Queen's first great-grandchild -- was not reported in the media until an amateur photographer snapped a photograph of the Phillips family coming out of the church in Avening. It appears that Anne's three brothers or their families were invited to Savannah's baptism.   Peter Phillips' decision to sell his wedding to Hello appears to have left a bad taste in the mouths of other members of the Royal Family.  I expected that Savannah's baptism would have taken place not long before William's wedding, just as Zara's baptism took place a few weeks before the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer.  

Peter Phillips and Prince William were touted to be close friends, so it would not have been a surprise to see Prince William as one of Savannah's godparents.  But this is apparently not the case.  The names of the godparents have not been made public.
Peter Alexander had a good vantage point at the end, as a part of the surging crowd toward Buckingham Palace.  After the commentary returned, Meredith told viewers that Camilla and Andrew and other British people in the NBC booth all sang "Jerusalem," and Matt noted that both Camilla and Meredith were moved to tears by the service.  Matt also noted how inspiring the service and atmosphere turned out to be.  He did not think that the day would be such an emotional one. 

The British press was full of cynicism prior to the wedding.  No real interest, blah blah.  More than one million people lined the streets in London.  Twenty four million people watched it on television in the United Kingdom.   Two billion watched it around the world, including the astronauts on the International Space Station.  Earlier the astronauts sent a message to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.   No other monarchy gets that sort of attention.

It also should be noted that commentary is not for those who know what's going on, but for those who don't.  Most people, including the Brits, were not interested in knowing the foreign royals.    This was the wedding of the second in line to the British throne.  We were all guests at the wedding.   The commentary has to reflect the overall viewership, and most are not going to care about intricacies of how Kate is titled.

NBC deserves kudos for its coverage.  There was reverence and respect, and over all the facts were correct,  but some of the major gaffes came not from the Americans, but from the British experts.


Ron said...

I haven't seen the traditional wedding photo of the couple with the assembled foreign royalty. Have you?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Only three photos were released - with the family, with the wedding party and the couple. No other photos were released to the media ...William is only second in line to the throne, so perhaps one was not taken.

John said...

I wish you would have gotten a consulting engagement for one of the networks covering the wedding. There would be no mistakes!