ABC will fast-track the BBC documentary series Reinventing the Royals, which was cause for controversy in the UK recently after Prince Charles was furious with suggestions he tried to boost his image following the death of Diana.
The Royal Family sits at the pinnacle of British politics and society. Yet with no political power, how they are perceived by the public is critical to the survival of the institution they represent. Their relationship with the media has never been more important.
This two-part series tells the inside story of the 20-year battle between the monarchy and the media – the first family and the fourth estate – over personal privacy and public image. It examines how the Royal Family set about rehabilitating its battered public image and reputation following the breakdown of Prince Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana and her sudden and tragic death. It explores how two young bereaved princes have been encouraged to overcome their dislike and distrust of the press.
The series is written and presented by Steve Hewlett and is told principally through the first-hand testimony of those who were there.
The program begins in 1997 with the tragic death of Princess Diana. This terrible event turned public opinion initially against the Royal Family but then came to focus decisively on the press.
The press, blamed for their part in Diana’s death and the years of highly intrusive behaviour that preceded it, had to act quickly. An emergency meeting of newspaper editors was called and the rules of royal reporting were changed forever.
Prince Charles’s public image was at an all-time low, and he was portrayed in sections of the media as an unloving husband and a bad father. To help rebuild his image Prince Charles had already hired a new type of royal press advisor – a spin doctor – Mark Bolland. The contrast with the traditional royal approach to the press “never complain never explain” – could not have been more pronounced. With press contacts at every level, Bolland was a man who was ready to engage with the media.
Although Bolland’s work was effective outside the palace, his methods were not popular amongst other royals and courtiers. When he left in 2002 it brought to an end a period of spin never to be repeated and the relationship between the media and the monarchy was back on more traditional ground.
Interviewees include: Sandy Henney, Press Secretary to Prince Charles 1993 – 2000; Tom Bradby, ITN Royal Correspondent and friend of the Princes; Richard Kay, Royal Correspondent, Daily Mail; Arthur Edwards, Royal Photographer; Alastair Campbell, Director of Communications to Prime Minister Tony Blair.
8:30pm Tuesday March 3 on ABC.