Monarch’s Funeral Becomes TV Event of the Century | Queen Elizabeth II


Miles of cable for TV broadcasting have been laid, almost every satellite truck in the UK has been hired out and international broadcasters are offering piles of cash to anyone who can get them a broadcast location with a view of the ceremony.

Monday funeral of Queen Elizabeth II is a worldwide TV event that has been planned for decades – but at the same time brought together in just 10 days.

“I’ve been in the business for so long that I first started rehearsing the Bridges Events 30 years ago,” said 64-year-old presenter Dermot Murnaghan, referencing an internal code name for the deaths of important royals.

The presenter, who will cover Sky News’ funeral with Anna Botting, said preparations have been quietly ramping up since the summer. “I’ve been traveling around for the past few weeks with a black tie in my back pocket. We saw the pictures of her with Boris, we knew she had mobility issues and she was 96.”

Still, even the best-rehearsed plans can fall apart, Murnaghan discovered last Thursday when he told viewers that the Queen had passed away. “It ended with me making the announcement in the pouring rain with an umbrella, my phone and water on my neck.”

Virtually all the major British TV channels – with the exception of Channel 5, where the Emoji Movie airs – have cleared their schedules for royal coverage on Mondays. For the most part, viewers will see the same raw footage from the main events on the BBC, ITV and Sky News. All three outlets have put together a plan to pool their resources to provide a single national video feed of the proceedings.

“There probably aren’t many outside broadcasting equipment in Britain that aren’t at this event,” said Michael Jermey, the news director at ITV. “People will be rigging up cables and cameras this weekend.”

Cameras allegedly filming Coronation Street stars’ arrival at the canceled National Television Awards have been redeployed to film a monarch’s funeral. Leading broadcast technicians arrived in Amsterdam for an industry conference when the Queen’s death was announced, then immediately returned to London to install equipment.

ITV’s Jermey said the pooled images meant each broadcaster’s coverage of the funeral would be shaped by the tone of the presenters and pundits. His channel relies on Tom Bradby and Julie Etchingham, promising to keep interventions to a minimum.

“It will be possible to watch ITV and see the events right in front of you without too much interruption from commentators or people talking,” Jermey said. “We will let the events breathe, people will hear the music, hear what people are saying in the cathedral.”

Murnaghan, who will be based at Windsor Castle, said he hoped to be out of the picture for as long as possible. “This is a ceremony that has evolved through the ages with uniforms and wands. It’s about letting the pictures do the talking.” He said he had a rule for when to intervene: “Do it solemnly, do it quickly, and be silent.”

A car carrying King Charles III will pass live television broadcasts near Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
A car carrying King Charles III will pass live television broadcasts near Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. Photo: Vadim Ghirdă/AP

TV ratings are likely to be high, even at a time when fewer people get their news from broadcasters. The BBC, which has rarely interrupted royal coverage since the Queen’s death, will call on Huw Edwards and Kirsty Young for its coverage, with help from Fergal Keane, David Dimbleby and Sophie Raworth.

Millions more people are expected to watch online streams on sites like YouTube or TikTok. There were nerves at the BBC after the iPlayer service struggled to cope with the number of people trying to stream the news of the Queen’s death.

British broadcasters have also faced requests for help from international broadcasters. US TV networks have sent some of their top presenters to London, such as NBC Today presenter Savannah Guthrie who flies to London for hosting duties.

While major international broadcasters had logistical plans, broadcasters from smaller countries continued to beg for space for their news anchors after failing to pre-book hotel balconies with suitable backdrops.

There is a particular demand overseas for stereotypically voiced British ‘royal experts’ who can explain different traditions to overseas viewers, with one delighted collaborator admitting they’ve made thousands of pounds in the past week touring different channels.

But one thing you won’t find in British TV’s coverage of royal funerals is a lot of discussion about republicanism or the future of the monarchy.

Jermey said ITV had covered the arrests of anti-royal protesters and freedom of speech in its bulletins, but for now the coverage is “essentially around a funeral”.

This view was shared by Murnaghan, who said there would be time in the future to discuss “comprehensive questions” about the monarchy.

“It’s a funeral,” he said. “A week before the Queen died, I was reading a eulogy at my mother’s funeral, and the proper order of funerals is to maintain respect. We need to know how to behave.”

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