The Royal Family and the Media

The Royal Family and the Media

In Europe there are only ten monarchies left: The Kingdom Belgium, The Kingdom Denmark, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, The Principality Liechtenstein, The Grand Duchy Luxembourg, The Principality Monaco, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, The Kingdom Norway, The Kingdom Spain, The Kingdom Sweden.

The English Monarchy is of tremendous historical value to the world at large. Forget about whatever revenue may come from tourism. The Royals are a link to the grand past of the British Empire; they donate millions to charity and inspire a sense of true nationalism.

In the 1930s the BBC began to manufacture a new image for the British royal family. In 1932 George V made the first Christmas broadcast to his people. John Reith, the BBC’s Director General, made suggestions about what royalty might say, and in 1936 personally stage-managed Edward VIII’s abdication speech.

The funeral of one king, the abdication of a second and the coronation of a third within 16 months provided the BBC with marvelous opportunities for pathos and pageantry. The coronation of George VI in 1937 was the most elaborate outside broadcast yet undertaken, and arguably the first large-scale “media event”.

A very few of the king’s subjects, in southeast England, could watch it on television; for the next coronation, in 1953, more than a million television sets were sold. This was the world’ s first truly international television outside broadcast, relayed live to France, Holland and West Germany. Some 500 million people around the world watched the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969, and 750 million witnessed his “fairytale wedding” in 1981.

Although Britain has been most successful in exporting its royal occasions, the state ceremonies of other countries, too, particularly royal weddings, have been grand occasions for television around the world. The wedding of Crown Prince Akihito in Japan in 1959 became an occasion for the celebration of national unity. It also doubled the number of television sets in Japan in a year.

But television’s place in our homes makes it an “unheroic” medium; its most appreciated personalities celebrate their “normality”. In 1968, the BBC and ITV together produced a documentary, Royal Family, intended to “humanize” the monarchy. For the first time, viewers saw royalty talking to each other just as if they were ordinary people. Perhaps it was too successful.

Since then, media treatment of the royal family in the television age has become less reverential. Increasingly, they have been cast in the public imagination as characters in a soap opera, barely different from Dallas and Dynasty, the primetime sagas of endless internecine families.

Next Page: The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic

Modern technology has changed many things in our lives, including the way we communicate, travel and entertain ourselves. Electronic instruments and computer simulations have revolutionised science. Computer graphics, computer-aided design, lasers and video technology came together in the 1980s to create a new visual world, in which the new possibilities of electronics were enthusiastically celebrated, and the imagination stimulated by the sheer power of the silicon chip.

Computer graphics, computer-aided design, lasers and video technology came together in the 1980s to create a new visual world, in which the new possibilities of electronics were enthusiastically celebrated, and the imagination stimulated by the sheer power of the silicon chip.

The development of video technology, with its simple techniques of stopping the image, recoloring it, inverting or distorting it, digitizing it and easily intercutting it, provided pop music with a visual counterpart to the ephemeral, studio-created three-minute single; and the pop video became the new expressive form of the 1980s.

Meanwhile, a combination of silicon-chip logic and video graphics had created a multitude of simple, bounded but highly seductive alternative worlds, to be reached for the price of a small coin in any video parlor around the world.

The programmers created universes in which dragons sat on hidden treasure, voracious monsters pursued you around mazes and aliens attacked in ever more exotic space ships. The iconography of the B-movie and the cartoon comic reigned supreme, though often modulated by a quirky sense of self-deprecating humor.

Computer graphics were turned to far more serious ends in all kinds of industrial uses, yet they became omnipresent, particularly in high-profile graphics such as television company logos and ads. The possibility of producing solid three-dimensional images, through computer graphics or through holography, which could produce a free-standing 3-D image, added new opportunities. Film producers experimented with ways of integrating the conventional photograph with the new image.

Finally, the new imagery was used simply for visual delight. Light shows became an essential element in tourist attractions throughout Europe and America, and the laser beam, with its pencil-thin beams of intensely colored light, was used to more and more grandiose effect in rock concerts. As musicians such as Jean-Michel Jarre developed greater sophistication in the use of computer technology within their music, they found ways of combining sound and light into enormous spectaculars.

Music Can Change the World

Woodstock Music Festival 1969

The Folk Revival

“Man, when I was nine, I couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to be Elvis Presley,” Springsteen remembers.

The first two Elvis Presley albums, both on RCA in 1956, neatly illustrate the basic dichotomy: Elvis Presley shows him onstage, eyes shut and mouth wide open, with his guitar thrust in the air, while Elvis has him seated in a staged pose, strumming his guitar. Here is the musician, they seem to say, and here are his musical instruments, his primary materials: his voice and his guitar.

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The Protest Movement in the Sixties

The relationship of popular culture to ideology in the 1960s and into the 1970s has become of interest to academic sociology, although the alarmed interest of politicians has given way to accommodation. The relationship of the entertainment favored by highly visible classes of teenagers and young adults to the behavior of that audience, and especially its use of drugs, is probably now still too current an issue…

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Popular Culture in Britain

In the early 1960s British popular culture emerged from the long winter of postwar austerity, rejvenated by the assertive claims to attention of the young working class. Responding to prime minister Harold Macmillan’s 1958 election message, “You’ve never had it so good”, previously unregarded groups began to demand consumer cultural goods designed specifically for them.

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Here Comes Beatlemania!

The Beatles were the most influential, groundbreaking and successful popular music group of the rock era. No artists of any sort, with the arguable exception of Elvis Presley, have achieved the Beatles’ combination of popular success, critical acclaim and broad cultural influence. Read More

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British Beat Conquers the World

The Beatles-led British invasion of American airwaves and record stores in the 1960s influenced all aspects of the American popular music scene. In Britain and the United States, few towns were without their amateur groups, almost all of whom attempted to write some of their own material.

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California Dreamin’

It was to California that the focus of musical attention shifted in the middle of the decade. The state had a laid-back image, at a time when ex-Harvard professor Timothy Leary was extolling the virtues of turning on, tuning in, and dropping out with the aid of hallucinogenic drugs, but this was only partly responsible. The tradition of racially integrated audiences on the West Coast had produced a rich ndercurrent of musical culture, out of which emerged the only “indigenous” music that could rival British beat in its ability to inject nw life into popular music.

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Rocking Round the World

‘The Rolling Stones are the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world so to secure a performance from them is amazing. The Stones, who first formed in 1961, August 31, and played their first ever gig outside England in 1963 at the Royal Lido Ballroom in Prestatyn. And although the four remaining members – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood – are now all around 60, they say they are still enjoying performing live.

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Soul and Tamla Motown

Soul music was so prevalent by the end of the ’60s that the word itself took on a world of meaning for black America. “Black people identified themselves as soul brothers and soul sisters,” says Nelson George, who has been writing about African-American music and culture for more than 30 years.

As the fervent optimism and vocal intensity of gospel joined with the secular energy of rhythm & blues, a powerful idiom emerged in which individual expression and the social activity of dance combined. The triumph of Soul music meant a lot, signifying a major shift in popular musical taste in America. Songs like Otis Redding’s Respect -especially as performed by Aretha Franklin- or James Brown’s Say It Loud took the music into a more political area.

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Rock Festivals: Woodstock, Live Aid

The sixties largest festival took place at Woodstock in upstate New York on 15-17 August 1969, with an estimated attendance of 450.000. In 1969, the combined forces of artists, activists, and passionate teenagers formed the most famous musical performance concert we can remember. It lasted three days and attracted spectators from all over the country. Those who went were there for many reasons.

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Rock Festivals: Woodstock, Live Aid and More

Rock Festivals: Woodstock, Live Aid and More

In the mind of the general public the festivals provided clear evidence of the threat posed by a radical youth movement. It was not just their political rhetoric, nor the widespread use of drugs; it was the sheer weight of numbers.

The sixties largest festival took place at Woodstock in upstate New York on 15-17 August 1969, with an estimated attendance of 450.000. In 1969, the combined forces of artists, activists, and passionate teenagers formed the most famous musical performance concert we can remember. It lasted three days and attracted spectators from all over the country. Those who went were there for many reasons.

Some were there because they believed that the music was a path of expression against the Vietnam conflict. Others believed that the music along with drugs was a spiritual path to “a better place.” Others were there for three days of peace, music, and love.

Woodstock raised hopes of a new beginning. But by the end of the year, the “dream” seemed over. Widespread violence occurred at the Altamont Festival in December, and a youth was knifed to death during a Rolling Stones performance. This was taken as an assault on the very spirit of the counter-culture itself.

But in the course of time idealism re-surfaced. Wedded to political causes with wider popular support it shaped a festival where, with the benefit of global communications hook-ups, frustration with the prevailing ideology of self-interest could find positive expression. In this sense Live Aid, the 1985 trans-world concert to raise money to combat famine in Ethiopia, seemed to many the true inheritor of the spirit of Woodstock.

To others it seemed to have inherited the paradoxes of the festivals, and added new ones. In this view the implausibility of rock stars and the music business displaying genuine altruism was compounded by the belief that rock and pop’s very existence as a capitalist phenomenon made it part of the reason for the famine in the first place.