ABC criticised for massive coverage of Queen’s death

Commentators and members of the public query if coverage of the Queen's death has reached saturation point.

Commentators and members of the public query if coverage of the Queen's death has reached saturation point. Photo: ABC

The public broadcaster faces criticism from the public, as well as some of its staunchest allies and former employees, for its blanket coverage of the death of the Queen.

The ABC, along with many media organisations, has devoted a large section of its broadcast and online news to the royal family.

On Thursday, the ABC confirmed it had 29 staff in Britain to cover the late monarch’s funeral.

“I suspect the ABC has misread its audience. If you want wall-to-wall royalty you can get it elsewhere in spades. The ABC is better when it offers an alternative to populism,” ABC veteran journalist and former Insiders host Barrie Cassidy tweeted this week.

Emma Alberici, the broadcaster’s former chief economics correspondent, shared a screenshot of an ABC social media post alongside the word ‘News’ and a worried or confused emoji.

The post was about a Brisbane woman and son who said they felt a connection to the Queen due to their shared love of corgis.

Quentin Dempster, Walkley Award-winning journalist, author and former ABC broadcaster, said Australia’s mainstream media had thrown the switch to royal propaganda because “it’s so easy”.

“Nostalgia, euphemism, grief at the death of Elizabeth after 70 years of relentless self-promotion of ‘duty, constancy, service’,” Dempster told The New Daily.

“But it’s bullsh-t. It isn’t the biggest story. Climate change is the biggest story, followed by Ukraine and the ever-present danger of nuclear war.”

TND has also offered extensive coverage of the Queen’s death, and preparations for her funeral on Monday.

Dempster conceded that it would be a brave editorial director who would drop coverage of the Queen’s death down the news lists, given the competitive nature of mainstream media operators.

“But it should be done,” he said.

A search of the national broadcaster’s website on Thursday afternoon for ABC news featuring the word ‘Queen’ yielded 289 relevant items.

Dempster said the ABC should demonstrate that its editorial judgments were “well considered and news list judgments are given perspective and weight”.

“Although Australia has evolved from British colonisation and there is strong residual regard for the Queen as our head of state … this should be put into perspective given other world events,” he said.

British coverage

An ABC spokesperson confirmed in a statement to The New Daily that 27 ABC employees had been sent to Britain to cover the Queen’s death and funeral.

ABC News had a team of “around” 12 journalists and nine production staff in Britain, the statement said.

Two additional journalists were coincidentally already in Europe at the time and are assisting with reportage.

The ABC said the overseas-based correspondents were also covering other stories, including the war in Ukraine.

“The death of Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s Head of State, is a historic event and a highly significant news story – for many Australians one of the biggest news events of their lifetime,” an ABC statement said.

“As national public broadcaster, the ABC has an important role to play in informing Australians about such major events, as set out in the ABC Charter.”

The spokesperson declined to reveal the cost of the significant coverage.

“Special coverage of critical events is factored into our budgets. We don’t break down operational costs. All travel meets our guidelines,” they said.

“The audience response shows this coverage is valued by Australians, particularly on our digital and on-demand platforms.”

News Breakfast co-host Michael Rowland has been anchoring the ABC’s coverage from London and told The Guardian: “It is absolutely the biggest story I’ll cover live and, like every other broadcasting outfit, we have been doing rehearsal after rehearsal over the years and mock presentations on the Queen’s death and finally everything kicked into gear.”

Not alone

The ABC was not alone in its exhaustive coverage.

On Monday, Media Watch reported that the Daily Mail home page was “awash” with dozens of stories honouring the late Queen.

The program highlighted some of the more ridiculous examples:

Source: Twitter

With a prolonged period of national mourning and a state funeral to come, Australians aren’t out of the woods yet.

However, coverage is unlikely to descend to the level on display in the British media, where the BBC decided to build a royal corgi family tree.

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