Dimbleby is likely to lead BBC coverage

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The Independent Online
David Dimbleby looks set to follow in his late father's footsteps by leading BBC coverage of the funeral on Saturday of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Although neither ITV nor the BBC has completed plans for the "people's funeral", it is likely to be the biggest broadcasting event since Winston Churchill's state funeral in 1965, the last great occasion of state covered for the BBC by Richard Dimbleby.

His eldest son is thought likely to lead BBC broadcasters covering the build-up to the funeral in London, the procession to Westminster Abbey and the journey by road from the funeral service to Althorp, in Northamptonshire, for Diana's interment.

The Northamptonshire coverage is yet to be finalised because Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, has asked for "complete privacy" at the family church.

The BBC can call on a long list of broadcasters with experience of large set-piece occasions and the funeral is likely to be covered by a team.

John Tusa, former head of the World Service, was lead broadcaster for the handover of Hong Kong and the coverage of VE-Day celebrations two years ago. Veteran broadcaster Raymond Baxter was also used two years ago and his sober, patrician tones may be thought appropriate for a funeral broadcast.

ITV will today complete plans for all-day coverage of the funeral. Jonathan Dimbleby is a leading candidate for a part in the coverage but the commercial broadcaster loses out to the BBC on big national occasions because of viewers' perceptions that the BBC is an arm of the state.

The first big event covered by BBC television was the coronation of George VI in 1937. Richard Dimbleby, famous as a wartime radio reporter, became the voice of national events when television restarted after the war.

David Dimbleby led the coverage of his first big state event when the then Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson. On the evening of Princess Diana's death he hosted a Newsnight/Panorama tribute.