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The BBC rained on our regatta

The weather was bad enough, but the BBC compounded an uncomfortable Royal progress with a team of rookie presenters  some of whom were so raw you could have caught salmonella just from looking at them.

I have worked in and with the BBC long enough to know that events are scaled by priority. This one was obviously so low that all leading presenters were given the week off and the public were fobbed off with pretty faces and vapid remarks.

I didn’t catch the name of the exec producer. He or she should be carpeted by top brass this week – and I don’t mean red carpet. This was a shambles, a travesty of one of those things the BBC ought to do best. A washout, in plain English.

As for the music, it fell prey to bad planning. Why was there no Plan B when the heavens opened? What we saw was a soaked chorus of college students on deck and, below, an orchestra whose name the presenters could not get right. Oh, for heaven’s sake…. this was amateurs’ afternoon.

Here’s footage without commentary:


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  1. richard carlisle says:


  2. Norma Procter says:

    Norman, How glad I am to see your comments. It was dire. The Royals (who must have been perished) stood there stoically throughout… but they were not subjected to the banality of the interludes, the hesitant hyperbole, the vox pop and attempts at jollity in the grey. I was held there in front of the TV more in bewilderment than interest. The soaked singers, the dripping artists, the over frequent use of the graphics of the river. I did learn something…. that the Thames is narrower and deeper than it used to be. A long and hard way to learn that fact. Earth has not anything to show more fair??

  3. mark winn says:

    What a shambles!

  4. Thomas P says:

    I was watching the BBC broadcast of the regatta from Toronto and have to agree with your assessment. I was pleasantly surprised to see a much more professional and informative production when I switched to the CBC. We’ve just learned so much from our colonial masters over the years.

    • richard carlisle says:

      Also saw cbc and agree it wasn’t bad; on a positive note, the Queen and Philip showed class and strength, tolerating it all for what it was, seemingly thankful for the 350-year break.

  5. Didn’t notice the orchestra name glitches but given the number of deps involved they could have called it what they liked…

    • Dave, if us “deps” weren’t there orchestra members wouldn’t have any time off for illness, holidays, bereavement, and due to the exhausting schedule UK orchestras undertake if they did 100% of the work then there would be no orchestras as you would have a load of zombies! So we are here to step in at the blink of an eye, sight reading perfectly, driving all over the country with sometimes hardly any prior warning! Yesterday’s orchestra was made up of members, recently retired principals and us “deps” who like to think of ourselves as very regular extras, the main orchestra was down at Glyndeboune where many of us had been playing the night before. I was incredibly proud to be part of it and I hope my playing as a “dep” represented the orchestra well, I’m now off to glyndebourne again not as a member, but the orchestra certainly don’t make me feel like a “dep”!

      • Richard Benjafield says:

        Nice one, Katie. Everyone playing music on the river did a great job and it was such a shame that the TV coverage ignored most of what you al did. It would be churlish to mention that Dave is also an unoriginal channel full of repeats. Well done the musicians!

      • Sorry Katie, that wasn’t meant to be a slur on the deps, extras or whomever!

  6. I will say that, yes, it wasn’t brilliant television, but it was a big step up from American televised spectacles — Thanksgiving Day parades, the Super Bowl, July 4th celebrations, etc. I suspect that you in the UK are accustomed to higher standards from the BBC and this one didn’t quite measure up (I saw some of it on BBC America). But if NBC or Fox or CNN were there broadcasting it would have been much, much worse.

    • Thomas P says:

      True, it would have been a greater shambles on Fox, but CNN might have done a respectable job and brought in some excellent commentators — from the sceptered isle.

    • CNN was there.

    • Brian, you must have been too busy filming episodes of Family Guy to pay attention to how professionally Parades and major sports events are produced and commented upon by US networks.

      That being said, the CNN commentary (as little as I fortunately saw of it) was pathetic. Jon Stewart’s commentary on the whole thing Monday evening was truly superb, on the other hand.

      Thomas P., CNN had two Brits on location. The guy who replaced Larry King and the horsey-faced guy with the voice that sounds like a chainsaw, who reports on financial news on CNN International from London. Can’t remember their names.

  7. James Brinton says:

    Welcome to America.

  8. James Brinton says:

    Part of the time, it was as if the presenters didn’t even have a schedule.
    If the salute from HMS Befast hadn’t shaken their studio, they would have missed it.
    Only in the US are such people so often caught looking the wrong way.

    • Oh, really?

    • Yeah, Neville Chamberlain always looked the right way. If France hadn’t fallen and British troops didn’t have to be evacuated in row boats from Dunkirk, he would probably have missed that the peace in our time had come to an end.

  9. operacentric says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Commentary was vapid enough but they couldn’t even stay with that, constantly cutting away from the pageant to pointless vox pops with people we had no interest in seeing. Tried to find a commentary-less red button channel but didn’t seem to be any. Circumvented the Beeb’s lacking-in-cunning plan by switching to Austrian ORF2′s coverage – if I couldn’t follow all the intricacies of the commentary, they at least kept with shots of the event.

    Would have loved to have heard AAM playing some of the Water Music (did they play it 4 times over during the afternoon?) but, apart from an accidental 20 second snip at the start, that was presumably deemed too elitist. What we heard from the LPO was sadly ruined by the interference and amplification.

    Good to hear a few fragments of the water-borne belfry but sadly no sound to accompany later shots or their passage along the river when neighbouring church bells were supposed to have echoed their responses…

    Given that we were constantly being told this was a once-in-a-lifetime event (and perhaps even rarer given the hastening flow and narrowing of the Thames, as we learned at the end), what a shame they couldn’t give coverage worthy of it.

  10. Peter Freeman says:

    All agreed, though I absolve the ever-excellent Ms Baldini, Ms Williams (all too rarely seen these days) and Messrs Edwards and Witchell of any blame. My below-pasted site feedback complaint to the beeb was sent impulsively the moment the error occurred:
    “Your anonymous and apparently inexperienced male presenter should have known that one never refers to a Monarch as “Her Royal Highness (Queen Elizabeth the Second)”, which he did as she emerged from her car, but Her Majesty. Previously he had been enunciating the word royal sloppily as “Rawl”, and needs to be taught the difference. Better qualified would have been Mr Witchell, Ms Bond or either of the Dimblebys who are always word perfect on such major occasions.”

  11. mhtetzel says:

    And the Mayor Boris Johnson was summarily dismissed by a BBC presenter who said: Yes, he is there somewhere.

  12. Randolph Magri-Overend says:

    Absolutely agree. For us watching in Oz in the early morning it was almost a complete waste of time. For 4 hours we kept thinking it would get better. To make matters worse the timings were all wrong. We never saw the start of the procession we were promised….all of a sudden the bells they were ringing and suddenly we realised the floating campanile was half-way down the Thames. Where were the ‘Dunkirk flotilla’? Where did they get those people masquerading as experts and presenters? The nearest dole queue? And the camera work and total production with its haphazard pictures was atrocious. We kept being promised the appearance of the LPO float and they never appeared until the very end. And those choristers…if they don’t each deserve an MBE I’ll eat my top hat. Plus the royal entourage should also be awarded medals for standing all the time this was taking place….and smiling! All in all the BBC coverage was an absolute fiasco. And to make matters worse for us in OZ we had no coverage other than the BBC’s.

  13. Nevertheless, very much looking forward to the concert this evening, which we will be able to access on BBC America. I am unclear why Ms. Fleming was chosen to perform over a British singer, but as I am a fan, I am not complaining.

    Paul McCartney and Dame Shirley Bassey should also be highlights for me, in between some others I will gladly miss.

  14. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    The France 2 coverage in Paris was, in the words of Eliza Doolittle, loverly. Including catty remarks by Karl Lagerfeld on the various fashions worn by the ladies royal. They were all sitting in the studio in Paris while (whilst?) the reporters in the field got drenched. One intrepid correspondant (Jacques Cardoze) even said” “It’s raining cats and dogs as the Brits like say” Then translated it “il pleut des chats et des chiens.” I would like to add that this situation often results in a “confiture de la circulation.”

  15. paul myers says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Oh, for the days of Richard Dimbelby (sp?) and Wynford Vaughan Thomas

  16. Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    Commentaries from the French TV, including Karl Lagerfeld’s were no better…

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      OMG., mon cher Docteur. Karl redesigned the Queen’s outfit right on camera. Anyone who always wears the same costume (black and white) with leather gloves, has my vote for TV excellence. I watched tennis in between when they lost inspiration. My fantasy is to see Novak Djokovic dressed by KL. Bonne nuit de Paris, Marc.

  17. Chris Walsh says:

    Perhaps it got the coverage it deserved.

  18. MissLondon says:

    I feel sad that the RCM chamber choir (drenched as they were) became the significant image of music on the day. There were many more drenched musicians who should have also been given coverage!!!

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