BBC heading for a right royal row over university drama

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The Independent Online
When it celebrates it 75th anniversary this autumn, the BBC will prove it is something more than a state broadcasting service by screening two major series certain to have worshippers of the Windsor monarchy spitting with rage.

A daring drama about the amorous encounters of a young prince at Cambridge seems certain to arouse as much disgust and dismay in some quarters as a series of documentaries exploring the history of modern Irish republicanism.

But, in case defenders of the constitutional status quo are provoked into withholding their licence fee, the Corporation will also commemorate Remembrance Sunday with an affectionate portrait of the Chelsea Pensioners, men who fought for this realm in some of the century's most bloody battles.

Launching BBC1's autumn line-up at Television Centre yesterday, director of television Alan Yentob steadfastly denied that The Prince of Hearts, starring Robson Green and Tara Fitzgerald, was about Prince Edward, who studied at Jesus College, Cambridge.

"It's a piece of pure fiction. Just enjoy it," Mr Yentob told reporters, explaining away the choice of location lightheartedly: "You wouldn't want to base it in Birmingham or Bromley, would you?"

Mr Yentob turned more tense when dealing with predictably hostile questions about Provos, a documentary study of the IRA's "armed struggle" over the last three decades.

"The BBC will be careful to ensure it is not a propaganda coup for the Provisonals," he stated wearily, pointing out that four former Northern Ireland secretaries had agreed to be interviewed.

The producer of the programmes - to be presented by a seasoned chronicler of the conflict Peter Taylor - also claims to have gained unprecedented access to leading republicans.

But Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, the Provisional IRA's political wing, have so far refused to participate in the programme.

The BBC will also mark its 75th anniversary this autumn by screening a major history series about itself, Auntie - The Story of the BBC.

It is being made by an independent production company, which was granted unprecedented access to an archive of interviews with leading executives in the Corporation past and present which have never before been screened.

The series promises to offer insight into the battles between BBC management and the Thatcher government and the conflicts within the Corporation itself during that unhappy period.

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