Paxman says BBC fawns over royals

Jeremy Paxman has accused the BBC of “fawning” over the royal family.

The Newsnight presenter claimed the TV company was unsure whether to report or celebrate royal news, such as Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubliee and Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles, resulting in “complete confusion”.

He told BBC Radio 4 programme Archive Hour: “While the BBC does report royal matters pretty straightforwardly, as it should, there is still a fawning taste, a fawning sense, to the tone of voice it adopts when dealing with the doings of the heir to the throne and his family, for example.

“The monarchy is the thing that really illuminates the question of the BBC’s complete confusion about what on earth it is, and you’ve seen this I think time and time again.”

Adding the queen and her family bring out “the worst aspects” of the BBC, Jeremy claimed the corporation was unsure whether to simply give the facts when the Queen Mother died or to act as “mourner in chief”.

He added staff were sent an email telling female presenters to wear black shawls in the event of her death. Jeremy claims grey suits, white shirts and black ties were kept in a cupboard for all male presenters.

He said: “[During preparations] we were not allowed to deviate from a particular format. This involved the presenter saying, ‘It is with deep regret that the BBC announces the death of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.’

“At this point solemn music would be played, pictures would be shown of a flag at half mast, there would be chocolate box pictures of the Queen Mother’s life… it was unclear whether the BBC was announcing this as a piece of news or in its capacity as mourner in chief.”

A BBC spokesman said: “This Archive Hour gives snapshots from the history of the relationship between the BBC and the monarchy, which goes back over more than 70 years.

“Jeremy Paxman, a seasoned observer of these issues, is just one of many voices and opinions on the programme.”