Second Royal Baby: Global Media Circus Tamed as Camera Crews Are in Standby Mode
The royal family doesn't want "a repeat of the 'Great Kate Wait' of 2013," one correspondent tells THR as journalists are kept away until Kate Middleton is admitted to a London hospital.
Kate Middleton is expected to give birth to her second child with Prince William as early as this week, and journalists from around the world are once again gearing up to cover the addition to the British royal family.
Prince George's birth on July 22, 2013, caused a massive media circus in London. This time around though, the media build-up has been less intense so far.
For example, TV crews haven't started camping out at the Lindo Wing of London's St. Mary Hospital early like last time, instead waiting for the palace to announce when Middleton goes into labor as the royal family said there would be no live filming allowed until that happens. Barriers for camera crews have been set up and teams' spots have been marked, but members of the worldwide media pack will only get to take their spots once alerted.
That has meant that TV reports have in recent days mostly focused on royal superfans who have been hanging out outside the hospital waiting for news.
"It's clear Kensington Palace and the Lindo Wing don't want a repeat of the "Great Kate Wait" of 21 months ago," Ben O'Hara-Byrne, London correspondent for Canada's CTV News, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Media were camped out for weeks back then. This time, the media is not allowed to descend on the hospital until the duchess is admitted to hospital. The barriers have been up since last week but, unlike last time, they're empty. We'll be notified by email and on Twitter when she goes into hospital and then we'll have to get there as fast as we can."
That's when the media circus is expected to heat up. After all, the news of the second pregnancy in September caused much social media and media coverage.
"It will have less significance because the new baby won't be in direct line to the throne," explains Richard Sambrook, professor of journalism and director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University and a former director of global news at the BBC. "However, the royal baby circus will still be underway — with high levels of interest internationally as well as in the U.K., live coverage from the hospital, et cetera."
He adds: "William and Kate are global uber-celebrities now. And the precedent from Diana 30 years ago says there will still be significant interest."
In the U.K., all big networks and news networks are gearing up for in-depth coverage during what is expected to be this year's busiest news season given a closely contested general election is set to take place on May 7.
A BBC News representative says the U.K. public broadcaster wouldn't detail its coverage plans for the second royal baby, but emphasizes: "Many viewers take a close interest in the royal family, and while we don’t comment on our editorial plans in advance, we will give the story an appropriate level of coverage when it occurs.”
ITV News will also be sending journalists to cover the birth of the second royal baby, including royal editor Tim Ewart. They will report from St. Mary's Hospital in London and beyond.
"We’ll also be covering reaction around the country from outside Buckingham Palace and in Bucklebury, too," says a spokeswoman. "It’s the busiest time of the news year in terms of resources for us." Grandparents Carole and Michael Middleton's mansion is in Bucklebury.
Sky News royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills and other members of her team have also been preparing for the second royal baby. She tells THR that she has been reading up as much as she can on historic and other issues to be able to provide smart commentary even as she waits along with other reporters for hours outside the hospital for the birth without much new information.
"Most of it is just getting on top of the facts, the figures, looking back to when Prince George was born," Mills says. "I suppose a lot of what we will be doing is comparing what happens this time to what happened last time."
Asked about how international media interest in the second baby seems to be shaping up, she says the second baby may not get quite the big global coverage as the first, but emphasized: "The duke and duchess have such enormous international appeal. I think [people] really want to see how they are with a larger family."
Says O'Hara-Byrne: "There has been far less demand for stories this time around, and that's been true since the duchess announced her second pregnancy compared with the first time. As the arrival nears, there is more interest, and I suspect that will spike once she's admitted to hospital."
He and Mills both expect more intense media interest if the second baby is a girl. "The coverage has again focused on whether it will be a boy or a girl," says O'Hara-Byrne. "We're told Kate and [William] don't know. There seems to be lots of hope Prince George will soon have a sister."
Adds Mills: "If we have a little girl, the excitement levels could be even higher, because it would add a different dynamic."
As far as TV networks from outside of Britain go, some signal a similar approach to their coverage of Prince George's birth, while others plan a somewhat cooler approach to covering the second royal baby.
Observers expect media in such English-language Commonwealth nations as Canada, Australia and New Zealand to cover the royal baby more closely. Elsewhere, approaches will likely differ.
Italian news network Sky TG24 is planning to cover the royal baby's birth with a correspondent and some live links from London, just as it did for the birth of Prince George.
In Mexico, TV Azteca has "no plans for special coverage," a spokesman says. "When the awaited event becomes reality, we will probably assign it to a European correspondent."
In Japan, NHK, Fuji and Asahi TV all declined to discuss their coverage plans, saying they don't release such information ahead of time.
In India, no special arrangements have been made by any of the major news networks to cover the event. Indian networks mostly relied on wire feeds for the first royal baby coverage, and a similar approach is expected this time around.
Russian TV channels claim to be taking a cool approach to covering the royal birth. With relations between the Kremlin and Western governments at a post–Cold War low, the public newscasters are playing down the upcoming birth of a second royal child.
Channel One, Russia's most watched network, refused to comment on its plans but industry insiders said it would likely cover the event in the same way it did two years ago for the birth of Prince George — using international news agency news feeds and coverage from its London bureau.
Kremlin-funded international news network Russia Today did not respond to THR's request for comment, but an insider says, "I can tell you with some confidence that RT will completely ignore the royal baby story, except to comment on why mainstream media is all over it."
Despite the sanguine approach to the royal birth expected, Russians love the British royal family. Last year, veteran TV host Vladimir Pozner — who in the 1990s co-host with Phil Donahue Donahue/Pozner on CNBC — made a documentary called England in General and Particular for Channel One that focused on Britain's love for the monarchy.