Australia axes royal wedding satire

2011-04-28 08:57
Sydney - Australia's national broadcaster has been forced to axe a satirical live commentary of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding after the Royal Family made clear they were not amused.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation planned to air The Chaser's Royal Wedding Commentary on Friday, promising viewers a mocking take on what is expected to be the biggest global television event in years.

The network is using the BBC's live feed of the nuptials but its plan to make fun of the big day is over after new restrictions were reportedly imposed by Clarence House, the private office of William's father Prince Charles.

ABC TV director Kim Dalton said the national broadcaster had "acted in good faith" in its negotiations with both the BBC and Associated Press Television News (APTN), which is also involved in the coverage.

Breaching security

"We're surprised and disappointed at this very late stage to be informed that any satirical or comedic treatment of the marriage of Australia's future head of state has been banned," he said.

"Our obvious choice for a light-hearted commentary is The Chaser team. Clearly, the BBC and Clarence House have decided The Chaser aren't acceptable."

The Chaser is a comedy group that routinely satirises politicians and celebrities.

It is best known for breaching security at the APEC summit in Sydney in 2007, when their fake motorcade got through restricted zones and was only detected when a team member alighted, dressed as Osama bin Laden.

According to ABC TV, it was initially advised by the BBC, and subsequently by APTN, that there were no coverage restrictions that would prevent The Chaser's commentary.

But new conditions of use issued over the Easter break state footage of the ceremony at Westminster Abbey cannot be used "in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment programme or content".

Democratic times

Clarence House was widely cited as being behind the last-minute changes.

According to The Australian newspaper, Prince Charles's press secretary demanded that the BBC obtain a written ABC undertaking that the Chaser programme would not go ahead.

The BBC reportedly threatened to block the ABC from its entire wedding coverage if it failed to comply.

The Chaser team said they had written a letter to the Queen, requesting a "stay of execution" for the show.

"For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times (...) but I suppose that's exactly what the monarchy is," said the show's Julian Morrow.

He added that the programme had been three months in the planning.

Head of state

"It was going to be a kind of light-hearted, occasionally tasteless no doubt (...) commentary on whatever came in through the feed," he said.

"It was a bunch of light-hearted commentary on minor royals in succession for the throne and your obligatory 'Prince Philip is an idiot' gags."

Chaser writer Dominic Knight said the axing would not sit well with Australians, who voted against becoming a republic in 1999.

"This is not a private wedding," he said, adding that the idea of being unable to mock the event "sits very uncomfortably with Australians".

Australia is an independent parliamentary democracy that retains Britain's monarch as its head of state. Other former British colonies such as Canada and New Zealand have similar constitutional systems.

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Royal Wedding

2011-04-21 12:25
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