Dear Editor, Queen Footage Was a Mistake - but Not Quite a 'Scandal' ; ON BROADCASTING
Graham, Alex, The Independent (London, England)
Instead of the usual "best wishes" an email in my in-box last week signed off with "I hope you are profiting from the RDF situation." It's a tempting thought. The moratorium on commissioning RDF means (in the short term at least) more business for the rest of us. And I'm not alone in thinking that RDF is currently reaping the seeds of the hubris it has displayed towards competitors and customers alike.
What's more, given Wall to Wall's reputation for quality and integrity, there might be a lot to be gained from us joining the ranks of the self-righteous. As it happens, I think Michael Grade is right to demand zero tolerance for deception. Allowing lies to pollute our programming is like Cadbury's allowing salmonella to infect its chocolate. And yet... As an experienced programme maker, I can't bring myself to dance on RDF's grave. The real scandal here has been the casual linking in the public's mind of the disgrace of the fraudulent phone-ins with the distorted footage of the Queen. One was a cynical premeditated fraud perpetrated on the British viewing public; the other was a cockup. A monumental one, but a cock- up nevertheless.
As everyone now knows, the "scandal" concerns two sequences from a new series by RDF for the BBC called A Year With The Queen (a follow up to the critically acclaimed series by the same production company which followed the restoration of Windsor Castle).
As everyone now knows, the two sequences - one featuring an altercation between the Queen and celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz and the other a grumpy monarch stomping down a corridor - were edited out of sequence.
But (and I have had to remind myself of this fact) these sequences have never appeared in a television programme. They popped up in two separate promotional tapes, one made by RDF for potential foreign buyers, the other was made by the BBC marketing department to promote the autumn season of BBC1 programmes.
The relevant extract from the BBC tape was posted on YouTube but when I last looked less than 30,000 people had availed themselves of the opportunity to see it. Perhaps that's a useful measure of how big an issue this is in the real world.
So, if there is an issue about the editing of these images it is not one of journalistic ethics but of advertising standards. And, rightly or wrongly, we apply different standards to promotional material than to the completed programmes. Are the BBC and ITV prepared to swear an oath that their nightly on-air trailers don't distort the timeframes and chronologies of the pro-grammes they promote?
I'd go further. Not only has this sequence never found …
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Publication information: Article title: Dear Editor, Queen Footage Was a Mistake - but Not Quite a 'Scandal' ; ON BROADCASTING. Contributors: Graham, Alex - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 3, 2007. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.