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I recently received a visit from an old friend of mine who now lives in Australia (Tasmania). It was on the day the  Palace rolled out its programme for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations from 2 June next year and we quickly moved onto the subject of the coverage of the recent royal wedding. Of course the entire event, plus build up, was given extensive coverage in Australia (as it seems it was almost everywhere else!) but was also enraged her was a blatant act of censorship involving Clarence House (the private office of the Prince of Wales) and the BBC. It concerned the banning of a programme by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC – or ‘Auntie’ to some) to be presented by The Chasers. The Chaser’s War on Everything is an Australian television satirical comedy series broadcast on the ABC television station ABC1. The cast perform sketches mocking social and political issues, and often feature comedic publicity stunts. Anyway their take on the wedding at the end of April did not meet with royal approval, so it was pulled – just like this…

Palace gags the Chaser’s take on royal wedding

Michael Idato 27 April 2011.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Director of Television Kim Dalton says the BBC has forced the Chaser to abandon its plans to use BBC live coverage of the royal wedding for a satirical commentary.

BRITAIN’S legislative might, wielded since Australia’s foundation as a colony in the late 18th century, was finally dissolved by an act of our Parliament in 1986.

Yesterday, the cobweb-draped hand of the motherland reached out of the constitutional shadows and took the unprecedented step of threatening to deny the national broadcaster access to the royal wedding.

Clarence House, the almost 200-year-old London royal residence which doubles as an office for the Prince of Wales and his son, Prince William, demanded the ABC cancel plans to use the controversial comedy group, the Chaser, as royal wedding commentators.

They then contacted broadcast suppliers, including the host BBC, Associated Press Television News (APTN), Sky and ITN, to ensure the ABC would have no access to footage if it ignored the request.

Faced with the prospect of airing static for almost four hours tomorrow night, the ABC had no choice but to capitulate.

”In Australia we’re not used to these sorts of conditions being placed on the media and you can’t help but observe these restrictions are being placed on the media on behalf of a future head of state of Australia,” the ABC’s director of television, Kim Dalton, said last night.

The ABC had negotiated access to two separate feeds, one hosted by BBC news presenter Huw Edwards, for the ABC1 channel, and a second ”clean feed” of video only, which would be used for the planned Chaser broadcast on ABC2.

Clarence House was alerted to the Chaser’s plans a week ago, after a story was published in the Herald and on its website, Palace officials then sent a ”please explain” to APTN, which the ABC had contracted to supply the clean feed.

Two days after the story was published Clarence House imposed new conditions on the feed, stipulating footage cannot be used ”in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content”.

APTN confirmed to the ABC the restrictions had been ”agreed between Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales and [host broadcaster] the BBC.”

A BBC spokesman said in a statement last night: ”It has always been made clear by the BBC that use of its basic live news feed and BBC One programming for comedy, satirical or similar entertainment purposes would not be permitted contractually.”

Sources say the Prince of Wales’s press secretary, Patrick Harrison, had stressed broadcast suppliers be reminded of the ”conditions” that accompanied their licence to broadcast.

Mr Harrison told the Herald last night that the new contract did not impose ”any new conditions on anyone” and denied the palace had singled out the ABC.

Plans on other networks to use comedians as commentators, including Ten’s The 7pm Project, hosted by comedians Charlie Pickering, Carrie Bickmore and Dave Hughes, and Nine’s guest commentator, Dame Edna Everage, have apparently been spared the ban.

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow last night praised the ABC for its grace under fire.

”We thought it was a good call from the ABC to back the project but pressures are being brought to bear from relatively high places,” he said.

Morrow said it was ”traditional for the condemned to appeal to the monarch for a stay of execution, so that’s what we’re going to do. Unfortunately, it’s also traditional for people who appeal for clemency to be executed.”

The Chaser’s letter to the Queen

Dear Australian Head of State,

We would like to place ourselves at your mercy and request a stay of execution for our television program, The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary. 

We, like Kate, are commoners, and were looking forward to celebrating her wedding to your exalted grandson with a few affectionate observations. 

To ensure that our coverage was respectful, we were only planning to use jokes that Prince Phillip has previously made in public, or at least the ones that don’t violate racial vilification laws. We’ve also filmed a joke about hunting grouse which we think you might enjoy. 

We Australians are a simple people who don’t often get to watch that kind of pomp. The last big wedding we had here was Scott and Charlene on Neighbours. We’ve asked around, and there are at least six people in this outpost of your empire who would quite like to watch our commentary.
Please consider our plea. 

We have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servants,
The Chaser
PS: How serious are you about treason laws?
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