Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History: 1995 Annual

By Michael Harris ; Tom O'Malley | Go to book overview

7
Gendered Space and the British Press

Laurel Brake

In late May 1996, readers of the London Guardian, a distinguished daily broadsheet, were offered a rare glimpse of the negotiation of the protocol that was to pertain to the television reporting of an inevitable future event, the death of the Queen Mother. So sensitive was the subject, liable to offend the royal family and to expose sources at the BBC, that although the story led the tabloid half of the paper, there was no byline. And revealing as it was of the ideological practices that link the media to the state, the glaring ideologies of gender remained unremarked on and probably unseen. Both the construction of the Queen Mother, who is alleged to occupy the "symbolic position of the Mother of the Nation," and selection by BBC senior executives of the stories deemed appropriate and inappropriate to national mourning are permeated with gendered values. All-male space such as "Have I Got News for You" is to be replaced by "something like BBC2 in around 1974: gardening and music programmes, a reflection of a gentler and more innocent world." 1

The gendering of the coverage of the Queen Mother's death, which is largely presented as glum and inevitable by the BBC source(s), is confirmed by comparison with the discussion of the television programming for the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. He "is the really interesting one. What would we do if he was killed in a carriage-driving accident tomorrow? There's someone whose reputation and position in

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