Too much baby TV ?

Members of the world's media gather outside The Lindo Wing as The Duchess O

My favourite quote from the last 36 or so hours of intense TV coverage from the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s hospital is courtesy of BBC News presenter Simon McCoy: “I’m at St Mary’s where the worlds media is waiting for news and so far there isn’t any.” That really did sum up the theme of the television coverage of the Royal birth. A waiting game. Presenting hour after hour news with very little information to report.

The work of journalists and presenters in London has to be commended. Over 12 hours of broadcasting from both Buckingham Palace and the hospital and viewers had no more information than they did at 6am on Monday morning. 45 words of a Kensington Palace statement confirming the Duchess Cambridge being admitted to hospital is what fed rolling news channels around the globe and national news programme in the UK. All of the Monday news bulletins spent a huge portion of their time live from the hospital eagerly awaiting the news. And rightly so. Anything could have happened. But it didn’t. And so you could describe it as a waste of the viewers time. Certainly on Twitter, there was frustration amongst viewers about the devoted time to the “imminent arrival”. Even those from the industry mocked the amount of time they had spent waiting for news.

Throughout the “birth day” what news providers did do was create an usual art of tension and anticipation amongst the reporters and TV crews and viewers at home. #RoyalBaby was a top Twitter trender and with no updates on the progress of the pregnancy, we were all left largely unaware of what was happening and whether the baby would actually be born within daylight hours. Reminders of the traditional process of announcing the birth are now engraved in my mind for it was repeated that much. But presenters couldn’t simply hand over to the studio for other news because the birth could be at any minute. It would be the biggest scoop of the year and a hugely historic day. To miss it would be a travesty.

Waiting Game: The world's media at St Mary's Hospital.

Waiting Game: The world’s media at St Mary’s Hospital.

Nicholas Witchell and co did an outstanding job of thinning out such little news over a long period of time. Although you would be forgiven for thinking no other news had happened. Come 4.24pm and with Kay Burley still preparing an interview with the Royal baby, none of the worlds media were aware that the Prince of Cambridge had been born. The same news headlines that had dominated the day continued well into the evening until presenters, reporters, correspondents and viewers were greeted with the most rewarding scene of the day. A man walking out of the hospital door. At that moment, breaking news straps, interruptions to normal programmes and a media frenzy began. Over three hours of secrets kept away from the public eye and TV news broke into a spontaneous royal outburst. Interviews with anyone available. Doctors, photographers, tourists and even kids in royal themed pyjamas padded out a further two hours of repeated news coverage.

By 9pm, the news had been broken around the globe. “Huge crowds” gathered at Buckingham Palace proclaimed newsreaders. Indeed the tradition of a hospital bulletin being posted in the forecourt of the palace was a grand spectacle of theatre for television viewers. The excitement from the hospital and other relevant locations from around the country, even a horse in a pub, did provide a sense of relief that the waiting ordeal was over. After ten minutes of hurtling around the UK for reaction, the novelty soon dried. Everyone was “delighted” at the birth, including Her Majesty, The Prince of Wales and The Obamas; Even the Prime Minister made an unsurprising appearance from Downing Street to congratulate the couple on their “brand new baby” in comparison to perhaps a brand new car.

Special news programmes ditched the schedules. BBC News once again dominated for another two hours on BBC One. Over on ITV, Grandmas who had been waiting for Long Lost Family were left despondent by the appearance of Mary Nightingale and an ITV News Special before the News at Ten O’clock which repeated, in summary, the news we had been subject to for most of the evening. In respect, both the BBC and ITV pitched up a programme featuring it’s main presenters and full package of reports, an example of outstanding preparation. ITV was the victor in the league of special programmes with 3.5m viewers tuning in. The BBC One programme held onto 2.9m viewers.

Come 10.30 and following the excitement of the days event and the end of the regional news, you would presume that would be the end of programming about the Royal birth. Not quite. BBC One altered its schedule again to welcome a Sophie Raworth presented programme, Born to be King, a pre-recorded documentary looking to what the new baby can expect in it’s role. Come 11.15pm and the television ordeal, for many, is over. Mainstream channels returned to their late night schedules.

The following day. A similar story. This time, the long awaited appearance of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their new baby. As I write this blog at 4.50pm there is no sighting of the family yet. The nearest excitement has been a visit from the Middleton parents. And with news to suggest the couple and baby may not leave until after 6pm, possibly the next morning, it seems the worlds media is in for another trying evening, padding out hours of broadcast with the same news until the prized presence of the Royals.

Although there probably has been too much TV coverage for the birth of the new baby, it has done digital news channels a huge favour. All day coverage on Monday saw BBC News take a 2.8% boost and Sky News a 1.6% share. Whilst such little news being panned over a long period of time frustrated many, it is true the event is very historic for the country. What the rolling news channels and special programmes did create was a sense of celebration, theatre and national pride. An example of excellent and historic journalism.

Why the Royals are again uniting Britain

Even the most out of touch individual, someone who takes no interest in news and world events, can’t help but notice a so-called “feel good factor” around Great Britain. The source of this great uniting is The Royal Family; In recent years they really have transformed into a monarchy and unit who are in touch with ordinary people around the globe. In times of a struggling economy, pay cuts and low motivation, The Royal Family have become a source of positivity, aspiration and support for everyday people.

Look back twelve months and notice the major events The Royals have instigated. The nationwide Diamond Jubilee tour saw The Queen visit all corners of the British Isles, seeing the people of towns and villages up and down the land. A real in touch moment for her and The Duke of Edinburgh. Alongside the tour, Buckingham Palace was transformed into a concert venue, with thousands partying down The Mall well into the night. The Thames was transformed into a giant river festival. Barges, rowing boats and even war ships were involved in the astonishing flotilla. Whilst the rain eventually did come down it did not spoil the day. Thousands lined the banks to celebrate a historic moment. On a day of immense pride, The Queen travelled to Westminster Abbey for the service of thanksgiving. ITV’s Mark Austin commented he didn’t believe the crowds would be as big as previous occasions, such as The Royal Weddings and Jubilees, but soon retracted his comments when almost one million people gathered to see Her Majesty on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony. The Jubilee led to thousands of street parties across the land, bringing communities of all ages and beliefs together to celebrate.

A modern and scaled back Royal Family continue to prove popular.

A modern and scaled back Royal Family continue to prove popular.

Before The Diamond Jubilee, events saw another historic occasion. The wedding of Prince William and the now Duchess of Cambridge. A day of personal and emotional achievements for the couple and yet for the thousands who gathered outside the Abbey and on The Mall a similar personal experience. Look back to those who were interviewed. They wanted to share in the delight and happiness of the newly weds. But why? The story was one of true love for William and Catherine Middleton. Together at University, Catherine was an everyday person, from an everyday life, in an everyday village. Suddenly she was whisked into the limelight and became a beacon of transformation and positivity, her story likely to be played out in the years to follow. Never had there been so much excitement from the crowd about a wedding since the last similar size event in 1981 for the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Crowds were welcomed like guests and so the 2011 wedding proved that The Royal Family were and are more popular than ever. And with an ordinary “princess” becoming a member of the family, it brought a new touch and connection to the everyday supporter.

Annual events including Trooping the Colour, State Opening of Parliament, Royal Ascot, Garden Parties and many more all collate one theme. Connection. Her Majesty, Prince Phillip, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, all of the family, are in connection with ordinary folk who come out to celebrate these occasions alongside. In times of sadness and grief, the public support The Royal Family. Recurring infections have seen The Duke of Edinburgh readmitted to hospital on several occasions. Whilst H.M is portrayed as emotional and alone in the media, she has the wealth of support from the public who continue to offer support and messages. The unexplainable rapport is explained no better than The Diamond Jubilee concert; Thousands of well wishers cheered and chanted for Prince Phillip who was in hospital. Nobody can say the public don’t care.

Street parties have united communities around the UK.

Street parties have united communities around the UK.

Today. The imminent arrival of a new Royal family member. The Duchess of Cambridge was taken into hospital, in the early stages of labour. Never has there been so much excitement surrounding a royal occasion. The media have been camped outside St Mary’s for over a week, whilst for months every step of Catherine’s pregnancy has been documented by television cameras and followers. The joy, happiness and overwhelming celebration that a child brings will be experienced by the Royal couple as well as those who have followed every step of the way. These expressions of love and pride have almost certainly been reflected by the media. News programmes are leading with good news for a change, as are newspapers, and social networks are awash with good messages. Again, not just Britain, the world is united at the good fortunes of The Royal Family.

So why have the family proved so popular in recent years? You could stem back to the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Strong criticism of The Royal Family, in particular The Queen, was rife, because of the responses (or lack of them) to the death of the Princess. An emotional Queen made a heartfelt statement from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, once returning to a grief-stricken London. Criticised for not supporting her public led to anger. However, Margaret Rhodes, one of The Queen’s closest friends, stated that she left London because of the overwhelming concern she had for her grandchildren, Prince William and Harry. The Queen did win back the affection of the public, by coming out to view the floral tribute that surrounded the Buckingham Palace gates. You could say that these darkest days of Her Majesty’s reign transformed her from a monarch to an ordinary Grandmother, responsible for the care of her Grandchildren following the death of their mother.

The death of Princess Diana led to a turnaround for the Royals.

The death of Princess Diana led to a turnaround for the Royals.

It took tragic circumstances to turn around the face of The Royal Family. Overwhelming sympathy from the public for two young boys who had lost their mother has continued well into the 21st century. The Queen is now in touch with her thousands of supporters across the UK and around the globe. The rise of social networks and popular film culture have led to new depictions of the monarch and her family. The 2006 film, The Queen, starring Dame Helen Mirren, was an instant hit, portraying in tiny detail the days before and after the death of Diana. Perhaps an important medium to reach the mass audiences. On Facebook The Queen has her own account, whilst unusually humourous parody accounts exist on Twitter. There is room for everyone to enjoy The Royal Family in whatever form they like.

The Queen, as head of the state and undoubtedly the head of the family, has become somewhat more relaxed and publicly more expressive. In 2012, her cameo appearance in a James Bond Sketch, during the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, proved a hit with viewers on TV and online. Danny Boyle, creative director of the Opening Ceremony, said The Queen had been positive towards the idea. In the weeks prior to the birth of her third Great-Grandchild, Her Majesty responded quite humorously to a young girl asking when the baby was due. In a natural response, The Queen said “I don’t think I mind, I would very much like it to arrive. I’m going on holiday.” The comments prompted laughter from the crowd and The Queen herself, yet secretly you and I know she has been anxiously waiting.

Whatever you might think of The Royal Family, love them or loathe them, it can’t be ignored the impact they have on ordinary lives. For the veterans Her Majesty meets on Maundy Thursday to the little girl who asked her about the royal baby, anyone who has the opportunity to come into contact with Her Majesty and The Royal Family cherish their experiences for a very long time. A transformed, modern and “down to earth” family have transformed the public attitude to the monarch and her family. A real testament to a united Britain.