Queen Elizabeth’s funeral marks the end of television dominance that started with her coronation

Then, apt, that her funeral on Monday marks the end of the TV dominance that began after her accession to the throne.

At the time, the lack of mainstream TV sets meant that viewers gathered in friends’ living rooms, churches and other public places to watch the coronation, creating a shared broadcast experience and a shared sense of history.

Now, the divide between social media and television in the immediate aftermath of the Queen’s death has exposed the way the new media is changing culture. On social media, the Queen was frequently discussed and, in many cases, condemned for Britain’s history of colonialism and her handling of royal scandals. Meanwhile, television largely stuck with the memorable and celebratory script of his 70-year reign, especially within the first 24 hours. The social media story challenged and perhaps even changed what was initially shown on TV.

Yet, for all the revolutionary media disruption and fragmentation already created by the Internet, television remains the dominant storyteller of national life in countries such as the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Thomas Doherty, a media and cultural historian at Brandeis University, said, “Yes, the Queen’s coronation was the epoch-making moment that made the British realize that television is the essential furniture of modern life … and the glue for post-war British culture. ”

Although acknowledging the massive change in the media landscape between 1953 and today, he nonetheless added, “I think the final farewell and eulogy will have a large number of spectators – the drama, the spectacle, the ritual … a universal The shared experience is what makes TV thrive.”

In this June 2, 1953 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits on a throne during her coronation in London.
Predicting a huge TV audience for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral seems a safe bet, at least in the UK where the line at Westminster Hall to see her coffin was five miles long on Friday morning and mourners were temporarily suspended. was removed from As of Friday afternoon, the UK government’s live queue tracker indicated that mourners would have to wait at least 22 hours to see Queen Elizabeth lying in state.

Audience prediction for the US is a more complicated matter due to the five-hour time difference between the UK and US Eastern time zones. For example, CNN will begin broadcasting live TV coverage from 5 a.m. on Monday, which is 10 a.m. in the UK.

The BBC will stream programs starting at 8 a.m. UK time for Westminster Hall. Its coverage will include funeral and committed services. This will be the first time cameras will be allowed inside a monarch’s funeral. The BBC’s coverage will be on both TV and its website where it will be available globally.

US and UK audiences, as well as the time difference between weekday schedules, may result in more Americans watching a funeral later in the day on the Internet and social media video than on live TV. Robert Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University, thinks the timing difference is enough to affect Monday’s audience size.

“The time difference will make a big difference, and yes, people will take advantage of the timing change, something that began with clever VCR owners for the Charles-Diana wedding in 1981, and is now a lot easier,” Thompson said.

Although Thompson expects a “very large” audience, he does not see it proportionately rivaling the 1953 coronation.

“I don’t think this funeral could possibly get the global attention the way the 1953 coronation did – or even the 1981 wedding. There may be more spectators, but there are also more people. Monarchy The identity and status of one was very different from what it was less than a decade after the Second World War, and the menu of things that people could pay attention to was much smaller.”

How Queen Started the TV Era

During the Queen’s inauguration in 1953, the Americans could only get full coverage on a delayed basis. According to the June 10, 1953 issue of trade publication Variety, the two major TV news divisions at the time, NBC and CBS News, filmed the events in Britain and then flew the footage across the Atlantic to be shown on the network.

And yet, according to the BBC, the coronation coverage garnered an audience of 85 million viewers in the US.

One notable aspect of the way American networks packaged their coverage was the inclusion of commercials. According to Doherty, this had a profound effect on the way TV developed in the UK versus the US.

“When coronation movies were shown on American television, networks naturally sold ads,” Doherty said. “And the British were outraged that cigarette advertisements were in disrespect to Her Majesty. This helped reinvigorate their view that TV should be sponsored by the government and paid for by taxes on TV sets and that they should be commercialized. turned away from considering. Models for TVs like ours.”

Although both Thompson and Doherty appreciate the growing power of digital media and acknowledge that the days of TV as lead storyteller are coming to an end, neither think that Monday’s funeral will mark the end of the TV era. .

“I don’t think the Queen’s departure will mark the medium’s swan song,” Doherty said. “If something like 9/11 were to happen again we would all go to our TVs — drawn to the simultaneous and universality of collective experience and the hypnotic power of the big image.”

Thompson agreed: “I don’t think funerals will be the last great global event of the television era,” he said. “But, alas, the great global TV events of the future will probably be disasters: an assassination, a terrorist attack, an intentional or accidental nuclear event, a major natural disaster, a pandemic, a coup in a major North American democracy – something all to see. Will happen.”

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