Here we are on the eve of what could be one of the most momentous elections in Canadian history, an election with two incredible possible results, either one of which could change the very fabric of the country. And where are our top journalists? They are sitting thousands of miles away in London covering an event that has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with star power and gossip.
As Canada prepares to elect a Tory majority that could swing the country further to the right than it has ever been, or failing that, to make Jack Layton the first social democratic Prime Minister supported in an alliance or even a coalition with the floundering Liberals, Peter Mansbridge, Lisa Laflamme and Dawna Friesen are off covering the royal wedding Of William and Kate.
I suppose I should make my personal beliefs known here. I don’t like the royal family. I despise the monarchy. I don’t believe anyone should have the right to their government backed job by virtue of who their parents are or were. Further I believe the British royals to be an inbred and stupid family who never fail to do the wrong thing or say something stupid. I know, I have heard all the stories about the Queen and how great she is. It’s a crock. This is a woman who never understood the importance of Diana and had to be forced into taking part in her funeral. She is the mother of a man who once professed that he wanted to be a tampon so that he could be that close to his lover. Her daughter is a joke in Britain for everything but her ability to ride horses. Both her children have divorced. Elizabeth is one of the richest women in the world but that doesn’t stop her from squeezing millions and millions of dollars out of the British taxpayers annually…even in a recession, even when the British economy is in terrible trouble.
Okay even without all of that bitterness, I have to wonder what the heck is going on when in the middle of an election campaign every major network in Canada is sending some of their best political and reportorial talent to cover an event for which there is little to say other than nice dress. I think the folks who host the Santa Claus Parade, or the nightly entertainment shows would be the best able to cover the events in London. They know how to comment on the clothing of the bride and her bridesmaids. They revel in the pomp and circumstance of the rich and famous. They marvel at the bejeweled guests. They love to gossip about who was invited and who was left off the invite list. I ask you, is this really a job for Peter Mansbridge?
Just so you know, I produced the coverage of the last royal wedding for CTV, you know, the one with Charles “the tampon” and Diana. Let me tell you from experience, journalism is all but banned from the coverage. Most of the cameras covering the events will be BBC pool cameras. The BBC camera operators will be working under strict rules that ban them from shooting anything other than the official events. There will probably be demonstrations against the royal family, British involvement in wars in the Middle East and even the possibility of ant-poverty groups demonstrating against the massive waste of money that could be put to better use. You will not see these events, no matter how large they get. Even if they interrupt the proceedings, the cameras will look the other way.
The U.S. nets will probably have some of their own cameras on the streets in case there is a real story, but the Canadians are not likely to want to cover anything but the lovely nuptials. The other stories will be saved for later, much later, when The National or CTV News come on the air more than half a day later.
The truth is that a royal wedding is a tourist event in Britain. It’s a way of separating the rubes from their hard earned dollars. The British government, in cahoots with the royals, try to plan at least one event a year, preferably in the tourist season, to draw big crowds of tourists to London and Britain. That’s okay, we would do the same if we had Liz and her family living in Ottawa. The question I have is: how does this wedding festival morph into a journalistic story that takes up half of our daily newspapers, a large percentage of our television news coverage and more importantly, detracts from the real news of the day?
Interestingly I have never met a Canadian journalist who wanted to cover a royal wedding. It is akin to being assigned to cover the Easter Parade. There’s no story. It’s just pretty pictures. The news bosses are less upset about coverage because they believe it will bring in big audiences and help to sell their news packages and news stars. In the past this was a given. The good news today is that recent polls suggest that most Canadians don’t care. A majority say they would rather watch a political debate than a royal wedding. Congratulations Canada, perhaps we are growing up as a free and democratic country. Maybe if enough of us ignore the wedding this time, we won’t be subjected to this crass spectacle the next time one rolls around.