(This is a letter of complaint going to the Australian public broadcaster the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS); an email version was sent on 1 July)
I am writing to complain concerning your report, ”UK Royal Expenses”, broadcast on SBS World News on 30 June, 2009.
This clearly did not achieve the standards of accuracy, balance and impartiality espoused by SBS and proclaimed in your Code of Practice.
This was essentially a report from a reporter in London. What was objectionable was the SBS presenter's introduction and his postscript.
These can only be described as tendentious.
The no doubt scripted introduction was along the following lines:
“Well it won’t surprise many that it takes a lot of money to keep the British Royal Family going ….. But it looks like UK taxpayers are going to be hit with an even bigger bill.”
The overseas report then concluded with the Sydney presenter reading another no doubt prepared auto cue text which stated that it cost The Queen more than $600,000 just to re- launch the Royal Website.
The impression projected by this highly selective reference was one of profligacy, and being a burden on the British taxpayer.
There was nowhere any comparison with similar countries, any indication that essentially the same costs would be incurred under a republic, that The Queen at 83 receives neither salary nor superannuation, or that we Australians make no contribution although The Queen is also Queen of Australia.
More importantly no mention was made of the fact that The Queen is only asking for more of her own money to maintain the heritage properties held in trust for the nation and to fulfil the role and function of the head of state.
The fact is the money involved is hers. The Queen handed to the Government all of her revenues from the Crown Estate and similar sources in return for a properly funded Civil List. This was not for herself but to provide for the costs of fulfilling the role and function of head of state.
The Treasury’s gross receipts in respect of the Crown Estate just this year were £211 million (Aus$432.26).
The 2008-2009 Annual Report on Royal Public Finances estimates that the British head of state expenditure for 2008-09 was £41.5 million (Aus $85.01), an increase of 1.5% in real terms.
(Over the past eight years this has decreased – in real terms – by 1.3%.)
Accordingly a surplus on the Crown Estate revenues of £170.5 million (Aus$349.30 million) was retained – just this year – by the British government.
And as the expenditure of the Royal Household is spent on Head of State activities, which would be incurred whether the country was a constitutional monarchy or not, all of the revenues of The Queen's Crown Estate are actually spent on public purposes.
Rather than being hit with an even bigger bill, the British government is doing very well indeed. It is, as they say, sitting pretty.
The viewers to SBS are surely entitled to this information.