The death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is of course a sad occasion. Whether you’re a monarchist, republican or a Just Don’t Care, it’s the end of a 73-year marriage and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel for his widow right now.
As the national broadcaster – not the state broadcaster as some have it, that’s a wholly different thing – it fell upon the BBC to reflect the occasion. As did ITV, the other national broadcaster. Channels 4 and 5 have been showing sensationalist royal documentaries the last few weekends, so they get a pass.
Which is how we ended up with BBC One, BBC Two and BBC News showing the same content from lunchtime on Friday until Saturday afternoon. BBC Four went off the air. BBC Radio 1 to 5 live ditched their schedules, some until Monday morning. Even 1Xtra, 1 Dance and BBC 6 Music – previously hitherto unknown hotbeds of royalist support – dropped regular programming.
Ironically, Radio 4 was one of the first to restore ‘normal’ programmes on Saturday, but anyone hoping for live commentary from the cricket or football was going to be disappointed at some point over the weekend.
The only channel that escaped was BBC Three, as it is currently an iPlayer brand rather than a linear channel. Even CBeebies and CBBC had on-screen messages, and the BBC Worldwide-owned UKTV channels dropped their advertising for a while.
The BBC tries to be all things to all people – that’s its remit, and why we have niche digital channels trying to cater for everyone. But to fulfil that remit truly means some space has to be set aside for those who understand what has happened, have seen the tributes and want to move on.
I remember when Jo Cox was killed. It was a Thursday; I’d had a trying afternoon at work dealing with people1 who were being less than helpful on the matter, and was looking forward to some Mock The Week-style light relief. The one programme the BBC cancelled as a mark of respect was…?
This time round I lost 14 hours of radio programmes; music that gets me through the week. It would have been 15 hours but Clare Teal got the boot in January and is now with Jazz FM. I’m listening to her as I write.
It could, and should, have been possible to create a haven for people who wanted an alternative, even if just an hour from 9pm on BBC Two; but, ideally, somewhere like BBC Four and the ‘extra’ radio channels. Not everyone has Netflix or Prime. Some of us can’t stream content to our TVs.
Women’s football and cooking programmes are one thing (two things) but what, one wonders, would have happened if he’d died on Eurovision Saturday? Or a Line of Duty Sunday? Or during a run of Strictly? Or the Six Nations?
And, what’s going to happen when HMQ goes?
- Long-time readers will know who.