By Robert A. Vella
Undoubtedly, you have been aware of the mainstream media’s obsessive saturation coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s death last week. Perhaps you were preoccupied with other things and didn’t pay much attention to it, but you were aware nonetheless. Perhaps you refused to watch the endlessly nonsensical coverage as I adamantly refused, and for that I applaud you. Perhaps you were absolutely captivated by it like an adoring little teenage would-be princess or prince. Perhaps you are a blue-blooded royalist or another type of autocrat immersed in authoritarian ideologies like the Russian strongman who has bitten-off-more-than-he-can-chew in Ukraine or the American megalomaniac who is under siege by the very legal system he had tried to subjugate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed his “deepest condolences” over the death of Queen Elizabeth.
In a telegram to King Charles III, Britain’s new monarch, Putin said the queen — who passed away at the age of 96 — was a major historical figure during her 70-year reign.
“For many decades,” he wrote, “Elizabeth II rightfully enjoyed the love and respect of her subjects, as well as authority on the world stage.” [emphasis by me)
In a statement that spanned multiple posts, Trump praised Queen Elizabeth for “her unwavering devotion to her fellow countrymen and women” and commented on their personal relationship. “Melania and I will always cherish our time together with the queen, and never forget Her Majesty’s generous friendship, great wisdom, and wonderful sense of humor. What a grand and beautiful lady she was — there was nobody like her!” he wrote.
The former president shared that he sends “thoughts and prayers” to the people of the U.K. and the royal family. “May God bless the queen, may she reign forever in our hearts, and may God hold her and Prince Philip in abiding care,” he said in his post. [emphasis by me]
Regardless of your personal reaction to the story, what motivated the mainstream media’s weeklong (and continuing) wall-to-wall coverage? In comparison, when Mikhail Gorbachev – the last leader of the Soviet Union – died the week before, national news shows typically covered the story appropriately in just one or two segments (depending on the length of the program) over a two-day span. Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War (along with U.S. President Ronald Reagan) and brought Russia back into the world community of nations (until Putin rose to power), was a much more important political figure in history than any royal figurehead of the United Kingdom ever since it began to transfer political power to the premiership (i.e. Prime Ministers) in the late 18th century.
Was the media’s motivation based solely on viewership ratings and profit? Apparently not, because the gross amount of coverage far exceeds what the actual figures would justify.
The death of the Queen has left the BBC with a tricky balancing act. It needs to act as the national broadcaster and commemorate the Queen, while also ensuring it doesn’t overwhelm audiences so much they switch off altogether.
A combined television audience of about 16 million people were watching the BBC, ITV and Sky News at 6.30pm on Thursday evening when the news of the Queen’s death was formally announced.
Millions more were watching the same broadcasts via online streams, with the BBC’s iPlayer and Sounds apps both struggling to keep up with demand. Many people are also likely to have found out the news from push alerts on their phones.
The challenge facing British broadcasters is that the media has changed substantially since the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother. Back then, there were only a handful of television channels and it was easy to enforce the same mood around the nation. Now, with endless streaming options and catchup services, it is easy for viewers to go to Netflix or TikTok if they tire of television news updates and downbeat music on radio stations.
There remains a deep paranoia in the BBC about being judged to be insufficiently respectful to the monarch, as symbolised by the fixation on the colour of the tie worn by Peter Sissons to announce the death of the Queen Mother. Yet judging the tone and breadth of coverage can be difficult. The wall-to-wall coverage of Prince Philip’s death last year became the most complained-about issue in the BBC’s history.
Different audiences around the world also have different expectations. BBC News Africa had to urge its audience to be more “respectful” after posting a tweet celebrating the Queen’s “longstanding connection” to the continent. The account was flooded with posts highlighting the negative impact of British colonialism, leading to BBC Africa manually hiding some replies.
For now, BBC One has been given over entirely to rolling news about the accession of King Charles III and the start of the formal mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II, with discussions ongoing about how long this should continue.
TV stations around the world reported strong viewing figures when the queen’s death was announced.
On Twitter, an unprecedented 46.1 million messages on the subject were posted between Thursday and Tuesday, according to the specialist platform Visibrain.
But dissenting voices are growing louder as the coverage continues.
Many social media users complained that the story had in effect pushed every other issue off the agenda.
And, the media backlash is intensifying.
From: Queen Elizabeth death: Bitter row erupts over ABC’s royal coverage – Journalists and ABC viewers alike have lashed the national broadcaster for their overwhelming coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s death since Friday afternoon.
Prominent ABC commentator and former Insiders host, Barrie Cassidy was among the many who argued the newscaster could have diversified their coverage.
“I suspect the ABC has misread its audience,” he tweeted on Monday night.
“If you want wall to wall royalty you can get it elsewhere in spades. The ABC is better when it offers an alternative to populism.”
Howard Stern never minces words, and it appears his limit on royal news updates has been reached. During the September 12 episode of his self-titled radio show on SiriusXM, Stern criticized news outlets for extensively covering the late Queen Elizabeth II’s heartbreaking death (via Daily Mail). The queen died on Thursday, September 8 after 70 years on the throne. The radio personality did not hold back, and voiced his frustrations at the heightened coverage.
So, what’s really going on here? It appears that the major news networks have consciously decided to ram this garish coverage down the throats of its viewers. But, why? Even in Britain the backlash is palpable, but in America – which rebelled against the monarchy in 1776, and which founded a new nation specifically designed to preclude any form of autocratic rule – the mainstream media seems to be acting as royalists would by contemptuously disregarding the very spirit of the country.
These questions should be put directly to American media executives along with the demand that they answer publicly. No, I’m not referring to their employees (e.g. public relations representatives, news anchors, and talk show hosts) who must do as they are told or as expected.
I am a red-blooded American. I am not interested in the life of a queen no matter how “nice” of a person she might have been. I have no interest whatsoever in a new king no matter how “fragrant” his verbal flatulence is. The world today has infinitely more important news stories for the media to cover. There is a dangerous and deadly war in Ukraine, global and regional threats to democracy and the rule of law, the increasingly evident specter of climate change which is imperiling the stability of modern civilization, there are worsening food and water shortages and disease outbreaks ravaging poor populations, and the United States – which still leads the democratic world – is teetering on the edge of an incredibly dark precipice.
Reject this news media perversion.