Royal Cringeing

29 July 2013

In case it somehow escaped your notice, a royal baby has been born recently, the cue for yet more forelock-tugging, toe-curling, cringe-making, tooth enamel-rotting “news” coverage. Sky’s Kay Burley offered a valuable demonstration of why 24 hour rolling news is a really bad idea, and the BBC’s Nicholas Witchell delivered similarly saccharine reports while simultaneously trying to distance himself from them with his customary “I’m finding this rather distasteful, I’m a serious journalist only filling in as royal correspondent while I wait for something more suitable” expression. And there were the inevitable vox pops with people whose living rooms are doubtless festooned with commemorative royal tea-towels and china mugs  and who “just had to be here”.

Even if you accept that this, and all the other royal events that feature throughout the year qualify as news, why does every newsreader find it necessary to assume a simpering smile before every single item about the royal family, no matter how anodyne? News items on any other topic are delivered with due gravitas, but at the merest glint of a coronet or a whiff of an equerry, newsreaders assume coy expressions and rictus grins and read off the autocue like minor local dignitaries presenting prizes for neat handwriting at a primary school.

Why does this happen? Does the BBC rulebook include  “Correct and incorrect modes of fawning”? Do aspiring newsreaders have to attend a compulsory course on public cringeing and self-abasement? And why does the BBC’s famous policy of impartiality disappear at the drop of a Duchy Original? The torrents of royal PR dressed up as news helps to keep republican views in a minority, and even when a token dissenting voice is heard on the BBC, it is immediately drowned by more oceans of gushing, sycophantic royal coverage.

This is the 21st Century. Those who wish to follow the “structured reality” that is “The Windsors” have ample opportunity to do so without inflicting it on the rest of us. Is it really too much to expect reporters and newsreaders to bring the same new values and objectivity to the coverage of royalty that they would bring to any other subject, and to display the same scepticism towards PR stunts, even if they’re perpetrated by and for the House of Windsor’s family business?