The death of a senior member of the royal family is always a huge event in British life, whatever your view on the monarchy. And nowhere is the significance of these moments perhaps better captured than on the BBC.
The public broadcaster has well-rehearsed procedures for reporting on royal deaths, and these protocols swung into action with the passing of Prince Philip. Just after midday on Friday, the BBC interrupted its usual output across TV and radio to bring audiences Buckingham Palace’s statement.
On BBC One, the UK’s most-watched television channel, an episode of daytime show Paramedics on Scene went dark. A black and white title card appeared on screen, with the words “News report.”
Presenter Martine Croxall then said: “We are interrupting our normal programs to bring you an important announcement. You’re watching BBC News from London. A short while ago, Buckingham Palace announced the death of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.”
She then read the Buckingham Palace statement before an image of Prince Philip consumed the screen and the national anthem, God Save The Queen, played. You can watch the moment right here:
Here is how BBC One announced the death of the Duke of Edinburgh pic.twitter.com/21Kdnj72sr
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) April 9, 2021
Croxall had been anchoring the BBC News channel when the news originally broke and moments before gatecrashing BBC One, she had the opportunity to pull on a black top to mark the moment. Later, BBC News’ highest-profile presenter Huw Edwards took over hosting duties in a black tie.
The breaking news was not so gracefully handled across all of the BBC’s output. Listeners to BBC Radio 1 offshoot station, BBC Radio 1 Dance, may have been surprised when a dance song crash cut to the national anthem. The moment was captured by Twitter user Richard Smith:
Just wait for the beat to drop… pic.twitter.com/OiG8RVUONu
— Richard Smith (@richardavsmith) April 9, 2021
After the initial news, the BBC cleared its schedules until 6PM to make way for special reporting on Prince Philip. Many hours of television and audio are pre-prepared for such events and it was not long before the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell was on air delivering a thoughtful obituary.
A BBC spokesperson said: “With the sad news that HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, has died, there is now special coverage across all BBC networks to mark his life of extraordinary public service and planned scheduling has been suspended.”
Other UK public service broadcasters also swept away their planned programming to report news of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, aged 99. ITV is presenting continuous coverage throughout the afternoon, before turning to specially prepared programming, including documentary Prince Philip: A Royal Life, presented by royal editor Chris Ship. Julie Etchingham and Phillip Schofield will also present a live program on the Prince at 7PM.
ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5 threw to its newsroom and a previously produced documentary on Prince Philip, while Channel 4 switched to a news special at 1PM. The latter will show ITN-produced film His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh at 4PM and a news special at 7PM.