BBC pulls film on royal 'spin' after legal complaints

The documentary, which claimed that the Royal Family used the media to massage its public image, was scheduled to be shown on Sunday

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The Independent Online

A BBC documentary claiming that the Royal Family used media “spin” to massage its public image has been pulled from the schedules following the intervention of its lawyers.

The Radio Times has revealed that Reinventing the Royals was due to be aired by BBC2 on Sunday, but has been postponed following legal complaints from a law firm linked to the Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

It is claimed that the decision to pull the programme, which had been approved by senior BBC executives and given a primetime 9pm slot, was made by James Harding, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs.

Steve Hewlett, the documentary’s presenter, had already written an article for the current edition of the Radio Times, describing how the film uncovers the Buckingham Palace strategy for repairing Charles’s public reputation before and after the death of Diana. Prince Charles hired Mark Bolland, a former director of the Press Complaints Commission, as “a royal media manager”. Mr Bolland’s task, Mr Hewlett writes, was to win public approval for Camilla Parker Bowles, a campaign referred to within the royal household as “Operation Mrs PB”.

Mr Bolland, who was dubbed “Blackadder” by Princes William and Harry, would be credited for creating the climate that allowed Prince Charles and Ms Parker Bowles to marry.

The rehabilitation of the couple reached a critical point in 1998, 10 months after the death of Diana, when The Sun reporter Charles Rae published a detailed account of a meeting at St James’s Palace between Ms Parker Bowles and Prince William, who was not yet 16 years old.

Sandy Henney, Charles’s press secretary when Diana died, tells the BBC2 programme: “He [William] was understandably really upset because [the meeting] was private. And apart from being angry and upset that this had got out, he wanted to know how it had happened.”

In the Radio Times, Mr Hewlett writes: “In fact news of the meeting had leaked accidentally from one of Camilla’s staff but all the detail, Rae says, was furnished by Bolland – a version of events Bolland wholly rejects. In any case, Henney describes it as a ‘defining moment’ for Prince William, who felt as if he had been used to further his father’s interests.”

In a statement, the BBC said it was “delaying broadcast of the documentary… until later in the new year while a number of issues... are resolved”.