Comic Commentary on Royal Wedding Banned By BBC, APTN

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SYDNEY -- A group of Australian comedians that were to provide a satirical commentary during the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s coverage of the Royal Wedding on Friday night here have been banned from covering the wedding, after broadcasting restrictions were imposed on the channel by suppliers the British Broadcasting Corp. and Associated Press Television News.

The ABC’s digital channel, ABC2, had planned to air the wedding live with commentary by comedy group The Chaser, who promised to be "uninformed and unconstitutional."

When the ABC first mooted the plans, the BBC and news agency APTN said there were no coverage restrictions that would prevent The Chaser’s wedding commentary.

But the ABC said Wednesday that updated conditions of use issued by APTN over the Easter break stated that footage cannot be used “in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content.”

The APTN advisory said the restrictions on the coverage of the wedding ceremony from Westminster Abbey had been agreed between Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales, and the BBC.

According to the advisory “the ‘Wedding Ceremony’ shall mean the period from the arrival of the first member of the Royal Family for the wedding service until the last member of the Royal Family leaves the main entrance of Westminster Abbey following the conclusion of the wedding service.”

According to the BBC, all providers of live coverage of the wedding have agreed to the restrictions imposed by Clarence House.

ABCTV director of television Kim Dalton said he was disappointed by the apparent censorship and question the consistency of the ban when other Australian networks are also using comedians in their planned wedding commentary.

“The national broadcaster has acted in good faith in its negotiations around ABC2’s planned coverage with both the BBC and APTN.

“We’re surprised and disappointed at this very late stage to be informed that any satirical or comedic treatment of the marriage of Australia’s future Head of State has been banned.”

The BBC Wednesday morning issued a new contract imposing additional restrictions on the use of its material.

"ABC TV had always planned to take the BBC’s full coverage with commentary on ABC1. However like other broadcasters we thought Australians would appreciate an alternative take on this major event,” said Dalton.

The ABC will still broadcast the BBC’s coverage and commentary on its main channel as planned. Australia’s three commercial networks are also all covering the wedding with the Nine Network to use well known comedian Dame Edna Everage in its commentary. 

“The Nine Network has Dame Edna giving her commentary and the Ten Network has the 7PM Project taking a light-hearted approach to the Royal Wedding. Our obvious choice, for a light-hearted commentary is The Chaser team. Clearly, the BBC and Clarence House have decided The Chaser aren’t acceptable,” Dalton said.

The Chaser executive producer Julian Morrow said, "The Chaser team accepts that the ABC has been put in an impossible position by people acting on behalf of the Royal Family.

"For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times .... but I suppose that's exactly what the monarchy is.

"It's traditional for the condemned to appeal to the monarch for a stay of execution, so that's what we're going to do. Unfortunately, it's also traditional for people who appeal for clemency to be executed,” he added.

The Chaser, well known for public pranks and stunts on their hit ABC show The Chaser’s War on Everything, hit global headlines in 2007 when several members of the group, including one dressed as Osama Bin Laden, breached heavy security surrounding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leadership Summit and got within several hundred meters of then-U.S. President George Bush’s hotel in a fake motorcade.

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