Back in July 2007, the BBC apologized to Queen Elizabeth over a “human error” in a television trailer of the documentary “A Year with the Queen” that showed her in an exchange with photographer Annie Leibovitz, followed by a clip of her apparently “walking off in a huff” from a photo shoot.
The apology came after the BBC Trust demanded an explanation from the then BBC Secretary General Mark Thompson.
That scenario and a subsequent apology were repeated in September 2012 when a BBC reporter revealed that the Queen privately lobbied a British Home Secretary in the former Labour administrations to arrest British Muslim cleric Abu Hamza.
The Queen is considered by the British constitution to be no more than a representational figurehead who should act only on her ministers’ advice, including on BBC, but the two mentioned episodes show differently.
Indeed, if the Queen is important enough to force such apologies from such powerful people, one cannot help wondering she is important enough to have the truth censored at the BBC, where she is constitutionally the top boss and sets out policies.
The BBC works under a royal charter that is renewed on a regular basis, with the latest being granted to the corporation on September 19, 2006 and taking effect from January 1, 2007.
Royal Charters are granted by the Privy Council, a body set up in the early days of the monarchy to advise the king or queen on matters of state, and are not put before parliament.
The Queen makes her own appointments to the Privy Council, which directly oversees renewal of the charters.
The BBC is, in turn, run by 12 trustees, also appointed by the Queen in person, who form the BBC Trust.
The trust sets the overall strategic direction for the corporation and assesses the performance of the BBC Executive Board.
The 15-member Executive Board, headed by BBC director general, is in turn, in charges of effective delivery of the corporation’s objectives and obligations set by the trust.
To put it in a nutshell, the Queen rules at the BBC.
Today, the Privy Council is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and is made up of all cabinet ministers and a number of junior ministers.
The royal charter works alongside an Agreement that does recognize its editorial independence but there are clauses in the document that show - as stated in the royal charter -the BBC must demonstrate it provides “Public Value” in all of its major activities.
Some of those clauses are as follows:
8.1 The Corporation shall, whenever so requested by any Minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and at the Corporation's own expense, broadcast or transmit from all or any of the stations any announcement (with a visual image of any picture or object mentioned in the announcement if it is a television transmission) which such Minister may request the Corporation to broadcast or transmit; and shall also, whenever so requested by any such Minister in whose opinion an emergency has arisen or continues, at the like expense broadcast or transmit as aforesaid any other matter which such Minister may request the Corporation to broadcast or transmit.
8.2 The Secretary of State may from time to time by notice in writing require the Corporation to refrain at any specified time or at all times from broadcasting or transmitting any matter or matter of any class specified in such notice.
8.3 If and whenever in the opinion of the Secretary of State an emergency shall have arisen in which it is expedient in the public interest that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have control over the broadcasting or transmission of any matter whatsoever by means of the stations or any of them, it shall be lawful for the Secretary of State to direct and cause the stations or any of them or any part thereof to be taken possession of in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty and to prevent the Corporation from using them, and also to cause the stations or any of them or any part thereof to be used for Her Majesty's service, or to take such other steps as he may think fit to secure control over the stations or any of them, and in that event any person authorised by the Secretary of State may enter upon the stations or any of them and the offices and works of the Corporation or any of them and take possession thereof and use the same as aforesaid.
The clauses once more bring questions of Queen’s interests into play, though the implementation of such interests is surely not made public if there are any.