JANET STREET-PORTER: Amol Rajan’s mischief-making documentary on William and Harry may be another step in his unstoppable rise but the hurt it has caused the Royals shows the BBC has learned nothing since the Bashir interview scandal
What did we learn from the BBC’s heavily promoted documentary The Princes and the Press? Well for a start we discovered a lot more about the presenter – BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan – than the Royals.
Mr Rajan wears jewellery, seems slightly chippy and extremely sure of himself. A far cry from Jenny Bond, Nicholas Witchell, and the school of fawning obeisance.
By choosing this self-confessed republican to front a prime-time programme about the Royals, the BBC seems to have decided it’s time to end their traditional coverage which often seemed to be conducted from the bended knee position.
The rise of Amol Rajan at the BBC in just five years has been phenomenal.
Appointed editor of the Independent newspaper at just 29, he’d previously worked as a researcher and assistant presenter on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff.
Rajan is confident, brainy, and sure of his own worth. Nothing wrong in that, but he’s rubbed a few (less talented) folk up the wrong way in his quest for fame and success.
One BBC insider describes his ‘magnificent vanity’ coupled with ‘grotesque false modesty’.
The rise of Amol Rajan at the BBC in just five years has been phenomenal. Rajan is confident, brainy, and sure of his own worth. Nothing wrong in that, but he’s rubbed a few (less talented) folk up the wrong way in his quest for fame and success. One BBC insider describes his ‘magnificent vanity’ coupled with ‘grotesque false modesty’
Rajan joined the BBC in 2016 as Media Editor and was recently chosen to present the prestigious Today programme. He pops up everywhere, from podcasts to features, across radio and telly.
Next year he’s presenting two documentaries on social mobility – a subject he seems to know very well.
Now, he’s touted as a possible successor to Laura Kuenssberg as the BBC’s next political editor. But maybe that’s a rumour he started himself. Either way the rise and rise of Rajan seems unstoppable.
Like Amol I edited a national newspaper, and earlier in my career I joined the BBC as an outsider, managing to claw my way up the pyramid of power to executive level.
Knowing how convoluted and arcane the organisation is – plenty of stale white men of a certain age, not to mention woke box-ticking appointees – I take my hat off to his determination, although every time we’ve met, he makes me feel slightly inadequate.
Amol can be charming and his social skills are legendary. He managed to combine editing the Independent (from 2013-2016) with becoming a trusted confidante and advisor to the owner, Evgeny (now Baron) Lebedev.
Did he ever worry that travelling the world with a multi-millionaire, hanging out at his palazzo in Italy with Boris Johnson and other less salubrious types and introducing the boss to politicians and world leaders, might compromise his journalistic ideals?
Amol can be charming and his social skills are legendary. He managed to combine editing the Independent (from 2013-2016) with becoming a trusted confidante and advisor to the owner, Evgeny (now Baron) Lebedev
It seems strange that the BBC should want to air a documentary focusing on the rivalries between Prince Harry and William – two hours of assertions, allegations, and counter-claims. An agenda which could cause the two men nothing but hurt.
One hack describes him as a ‘crony journalist’ which seems cruel.
Making a documentary about the Royal family – a subject 100% guaranteed to raise hackles and result in huge media coverage – was inevitably going to place him, as well as his two Royal subjects, at the centre of attention.
Has Amol Rajan gone from someone who reports the news to being part of the story?
His two documentaries claim to dissect the fractious relationship between the two Princes and expose the history behind their difficult relationship with the media. A well-trodden agenda.
In the process, Rajan talked to the usual cast-list of Royal correspondents, former staff members, lawyers, and pundits.
There were a couple of mini-scoops; one from a private investigator who – after sixteen years – decided to admit he’d hacked the phone of Harry’s girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
A female journalist (Rachel Johnson) admitted she’s described Meghan in less than helpful – bordering on racist – language.
Hardly enough, so far, to merit all the fuss that preceded the screening although we are promised more controversy in part two next week.
The BBC’s decision to commission the documentaries at all seems bizarre. Back in May, they were forced to issue grovelling apologies to both Princes for the Martin Bashir Panorama chat with their mother twenty-five years ago.
That followed an inquiry, chaired by Lord Dyson, which was a result of a prolonged campaign by Earl Spencer, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times to expose the dodgy circumstances under which Diana agreed to such a catastrophic interview.
It’s perhaps worth noting that I didn’t see the BBC’s Media Editor calling for an investigation, though I am sure he does not condone what Bashir was found to have done.
Following that inquiry and a Panorama programme which exposed the deceit that Bashir had sunk to in order to secure his scoop, it seems strange that the BBC should want to air a documentary focusing on the rivalries between Prince Harry and William – two hours of assertions, allegations, and counter-claims.
An agenda which could cause the two men nothing but hurt.
Lord Dyson’s report into the Bashir affair concluded that the reporting involved fell short of the BBC’s ‘high standards of integrity and transparency’ and the internal investigation in 1996 was ‘woefully inadequate.’
There were a couple of mini-scoops; one from a private investigator (Gavin Burrows, pictured above) who – after sixteen years – decided to admit he’d hacked the phone of Harry’s girlfriend Chelsy Davy
Dyson concluded the interview was obtained by deception and there subsequently a cover-up by senior executives.
In spite of Diana writing a letter which claimed Bashir didn’t show her any information she didn’t know about already and expressing no regrets (the NO was underlined), we now know that she was in a fragile state of mind at the time. The two Princes have had a difficult relationship with the press ever since.
Rajan claims that Prince William is the prince who has decided to play the game and fit in with the demands of the media, while Prince Harry is the one who is determined to fight for change and not compromise.
By airing an hour of innuendo about two people who have barely spoken on the subject of their relationship, the BBC has decided that it wanted to join in the tsunami of speculation about what Royal Princes think, what rivalries, hurts and grudges they harbour.
Can there be a single soul who doesn’t know how the hounding of their mother framed their attitude to the press?
If the Royals do have a ‘deal’ with the media, they are no different to other prominent businesspeople and entertainment stars.
According to Rajan, going along with the ‘deal’ (which William is prepared to tolerate) means favourable coverage in return for co-operation. Duh. Tell me something I didn’t know.
Prince Harry, who is still pursuing his litigation for phone hacking, is determined to fight his corner and not compromise. If only life were that simple.
As editor of the Independent, Rajan categorised himself as a quality journalist. By mapping these so-called ‘wars’ between the rival Royal households sneaking negative stories to the press about each other, is he telling us anything new or worthwhile?
Lord Dyson’s report into the Bashir affair concluded that the reporting involved fell short of the BBC’s ‘high standards of integrity and transparency’ and the internal investigation in 1996 was ‘woefully inadequate’. Pictured: Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana
More importantly, his documentary will ensure that the Royal family now have ample reason not to co-operate with the BBC in the foreseeable future, and have already reportedly booted the BBC from covering their carol concert.
The Royals are always good for ratings – which Rajan knows only too well.
He’s used Harry and William to further his career, with a programme over which they have absolutely no control and which has clearly caused the Royals hurt.
The BBC hasn’t learned much since Bashir.
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