Monday 4 April 2005

Good for him.

I'm not usually interested in royalty, but this is too good to let be. Prince Charles has slagged off the press. Good for him. Royalty correspondents are just paparazzi putting on airs.

[The photocall at Klosters] is arranged each year in return for the media then leaving the royal party in peace.

In other words, Prince Charles is being blackmailed. And, while being blackmailed, he had the temerity to complain. His blackmailers have gleefully spread the news of his overheard complaints. Apparently, this is "a public relations disaster" for him. I fail to see why.

I think royalty correspondents may have got the wrong end of the stick about why they're in work. No-one watches a Nicholas Witchell report because they like Nicholas Witchell, apart from his mum. The only reason anyone is interested in what he says is that they're interested in the Royal Family, and, as a rule, people who are interested in the Royal Family like the Royal Family. Most of the public, hearing that Prince Charles has slagged off a royalty reporter, will either completely fail to give a shit or will say "Good." The only people who will cry "Oh, poor, poor Nicholas Witchell! Oh, that wicked prince!" are other journalists. Like Jenny Bond, for instance:

At last, it's official. Prince Charles can't stand the "bloody" media, he hates photo-calls and has a deep dislike of one journalist in particular: Nick Witchell, my old BBC colleague.

The Klosters pantomime is always a joke: three princes perch precariously on an icy ledge and reluctantly submit themselves to a few pictures and a couple of ludicrously soft questions. In return the press are expected to leave them alone for the rest of their holiday.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

So the blackmailers don't even have the decency always to respect their side of the bargain, yet still complain about how their blackmailees are reluctant (reluctant! — oh, how simply awful), and are all in a tizzy because it's turned out that at least one of the royals can't stand them. Here's a question for Jenny Bond: can you think of any reason why Prince Charles or any other member of his family would like reporters? What things do you do that might make him happy?

When Witchell quite reasonably asked how the princes were feeling about the forthcoming nuptials, Charles seemed almost unable to look the reporter in the face. He squirmed and grimaced as William gamely took the lead - declaring that he was "very happy".

When Witchell pressed Charles himself for a response about the wedding, the hapless bridegroom first employed sarcasm - "I'm very glad you have heard of it anyway" - and then confided (or so he thought) to his sons that he "couldn't bear" Witchell anyway.

"I mean he's so awful, he really is," he added.

The microphones lying in the snow at his feet picked up every word. The prince looked naïve and foolish; the photo-call was revealed for what it was - a complete sham.

See, Jenny Bond doesn't seem to realise that it has been obvious for many years that the photoshoot is a sham, and neither does she realise what it is about it that makes it one. The fault isn't that the prince doesn't really love the reporters; no-one in their right minds has ever thought he did. The fault is that the media can't bloody leave him alone. The sham is that this gets reported as if it's news: Prince Charles Goes On Skiing Holiday At Same Location And Same Time As In Every Previous Year. No-one cares. Even people who are interested in the Royal Family don't think this is news. Yet there it is on our screens, every bloody year.

Quite why Prince Charles has taken against Nick Witchell so violently is a mystery. Both he and I - in my 14 years as the BBC's royal correspondent - have trodden a firm but fair line in reporting on royalty.

This woman is deluded. Why on Earth would Prince Charles give a shit that she was firm but fair? "Fair" means "critical of everything he does wrong"; "firm" means "critical of everything he does right". And that's fine; that's a reporter's job; she works, after all, for the BBC and for her audience, not for the Royals.

Reporters are not there to be liked by the people they report on

Ah, so she does realise. Fine. So stop whinging.

Prince Charles and his sons will have to accept that "bloody people" like Nick Witchell and the rest of the media pack who were invited to the ski slopes by Clarence House have an important job to do.

Blimey. How much incorrectness can you pack into one sentence? Look, firstly, at no point did Charles claim that the reporters didn't have important jobs to do or suggest that they shouldn't be allowed to do their job. He didn't storm out of the photoshoot or anything; he grinned and bore it, same as every year. All he said was that he didn't like it or the reporters. Since Jenny Bond has admitted that she regularly complained at the event, too —

My persistent grumble at such events was the princes' refusal to be properly miked up for decent broadcast sound.

— just what is her problem? Why is it OK for a reporter to whinge about the event but not OK for the Prince?

Secondly, if Charles had claimed that the reporters didn't have important jobs to do, he'd've been right. People who unblock drains have important jobs to do. Doctors have important jobs to do. Computer programmers have important jobs to do. Many journalists have important jobs to do. Royalty correspondents are dispensable.

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