Media Lifeline: Royal events on television

With a royal wedding in the offing for 2011, how have regal events adapted to the TV age?

1953: Although there are relatively few TV households in Britain at the start of the 50s, an estimated 20 million people (more than one third of the population at this point) huddles around such sets as there are to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June.

1969: Her Majesty's loyal subjects are starved of any further royal event TV action (of a national, celebratory nature at any rate) for more than a decade - and when Liz does come up with a TV wheeze to complement her yearly Christmas gig, it fails to win critical acclaim. Yet the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales, a made-for-TV pageant broadcast live from Carnarvon Castle, is watched by 19 million in the UK and a total of 500 million worldwide.

1981: The wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 lays down a new marker, attracting a UK audience of 28.4 million and a global audience of 750 million. But the royal event-TV juggernaut fails to maintain its momentum - It's A Royal Knock Out, another unconvincing (not to say cringe-making) made-for-TV extravaganza, broadcast in 1987, performs poorly in the ratings.

1997: And yet, when a nation mourns does it not now express its grief most touchingly through the virtual collective experience of watching on TV? The funeral of Princess Diana is viewed by a UK audience of 32 million, 2.5 billion worldwide.

2010: Thirty years is a long time to wait for a top-notch royal wedding - and television executives had almost given up hope that Will would pop the question to Kate. Now they can begin planning for a 2011 fixture, with every expectation that it can draw one of the top five all-time UK television audiences - somewhere between EastEnders (Den divorces Ange, 1986, 30.1 million) and Apollo 13 splashdown (1970, 28.6 million).

Fast forward ...

2014: Now there's the threat of legal action when video footage of the birth of the royal couple's first child, Prince Arthur, taken secretly by a nurse, is posted on YouTube. Its estimated worldwide audience is more than four billion - well over half of the global population. The nurse at the centre of the controversy goes on to take part in The X Factor, but the Royal Family fails to win a share of the ad revenues that the video accrues for Google.


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