April 23

Republican frenzy over BBC broadcast

As the last traces of the sun disappeared, and the sky darkened, I slipped across the harbour from the Sydney Convention Centre in a water taxi, my very first use of this exotic and effective transport. We moored at a wharf near the Opera House, and I made my way to the balcony overlooking the harbour, with the harbour bridge to one side.

 It was unmistakeably Sydney. Below me crowds of republicans were assembling, having at great expense taken over the patios in the front of the Opera House. They no doubt thought it was worth it – from this vantage point they could be part of history. They could celebrate the great birth of the new Australian republic.

 It was just after 7PM on the 6th of November, 1999. The polls had not yet closed in Western Australia, but the votes from the rest of the nation were already being counted. The BBC had invited me, and Jason Li for the republicans, to give an early commentary on the referendum.

When the cameras began to roll, and I was asked my impressions , I said:

" It already looks like a landslide result………AGAINST THE REPUBLIC!"

 Jason Li, to use the vernacular, did a "double take". I don’t think he believed me. But it was true. To me, the trends were already clear.

Only Victoria was in any doubt. It was only later that evening we were to learn that if the Prime Minister, John Howard, were to be remembered for anything , it would be as the man who broke the heart of the nation!

At least that was the view of the ARM leader, Malcolm Turnbull. It is true that John Howard may well have broken the hearts of those republicans quaffing champagne at the Opera House -one actress did weep on television- but when I looked over Bondi Beach the next day, I saw no evidence of a mass outbreak of broken heartedness.

Before and since that broadcast, the BBC has spoken to me when it as relevant. So in the days leading up to the Royal Wedding, they and other media would ask my views. The BBC World Service decided that immediately following the braodcast of the wedding blessing, they would speak to a few people around the world who had watched this.

Knowing how late it would be in Australia, they wanted to be sure that I would be up then, and I had in fact watched it. Perhaps they were affected by the strong and widespread view put out by the commentariat that Australians were just not interested in Prince Charles and Mrs Parker Bowles.

But as is so often the case, the elites had been talking to the elites. When I pointed out that over 1.5 million Australians had watched at an hour when most people do not watch television, republicans rushed to claim they had watched it out of curiosity or even out of malice. That was not the point. The pundits had said that Australians were just not interested.But Australians proved they were.

In any event, the BBC asked me to take part, which I did from Queensland where I was attending the annual conference of the Samuel Griffith Society to discuss the real problems concerning our constitution, not the cosmetic one which may interest those who wept on 6 Novemeber 1999 .

Soon after the broadcast, we received an email from a Mr Dan O’Brien, who is no doubt what is the media would dub a "passionate" republican. ( How relieved I am not to be referred to by the media as a passionate constitutional monarchist!)

Mr OBrien, incidentally, copied his email to Philip Adams and a number of politicians at their parliamentary websites, including Malcolm Turnbull and, curiously, Mark Latham, whose his official website is surely now closed. Perhaps Mr O’ Brien only listens to the BBC World Service,where he heard me,and where the story about Mr Latham’s early and generously funded retirement would hardly have been considered newsworthy for an international audience.

This is Mr O’Briens email, which began with a curious heading, and continued in even stranger terms:

"Subject: Monarchists sink to new lows

— The great BBC – DAVID FLINT CON JOB on the "colonials" – Do they really think we are that DUMB? Did they call you or did you call them? Dear Monarchists 

 In an interview on the ROYAL WEDDING the BBC ‘staged’ a worldwide hook-up with ‘ordinary people’ in different countries .. one in South Africa , one in the Falklands and one obscure ‘Mr David Flint ‘ a COLONIAL in the Colony of Queensland who when quizzed on the royals gave his usual effusive crawling UNREPRESENTATIVE dribble about these UNELECTED misfits they call the ‘ROYALS’ — NICE TRY Mr Flint … did they call you or did you call them? "

( This is the e end, you may say mercifully so , of Mr O’Briens email)

 In a similar vein, the point of the opening story by Liz Jacson on the ABC programme Media Watch on 18 April 2005 was just as elusive as Mr O Briens email. It was broadcast under the title:

" The BBC’s typical Aussie monarchist".

In case you are interested, I am posting the transcript of this piece at the end of this column. It is strange that Media Watch was so excited about this programme. The BBC had never and has never disguised the fact that I am a constitutional monarchist.

That I was affected favourably by the wedding service, that I am partisan, could not be in doubt. The BBC wanted to interview a string of people around the world who had watched the service – I was told they might not be able to come to me, but they did. The BBC had breached no rule of media ethics.

On the other hand ,the Media Watch programme has never once reacted to and never investigated the bias, the shameless bias, as Lord Deedes put it, that many in the media demonstrated in the republic debate. You would think that this would be worth a serious investigation on a programme which purports to provide a serious critique of the media.

Nor has Media Watch ever examined the extraordinary degree of venom and bile directed in the media to Charles and Diana, and why, for example, the fact that Prince Charles raised one quarter of a billion dollars for charity in just the last year is hardly ever reported. Others, for far less, have merited a secular canonisation by the media. What is this storm in ateacup about? We suspect that the republicans are furious that the demonisation of Camilla has failed and it is at an end , and now they will have to try to sell their convoluted, expensive plans for that disaster, the Latham republic.

Until next time,

David Flint

If you are interested , this is a transcript of the relevant story onABC Media Watch, on 18 April, 2005:

"THE BBCS TYPICAL AUSSI MONARCHIST … this has of course been a very British occasion, the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, but followed by many non Britains in all corners of the globe. Lets just talk to a couple of them now, we’re joined by William Eisner who is in New Jersey in America, by David Flint who is in Queensland in Australia and by Jenny Cockwell who is in the Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic … — BBC World Service, 10 April, 2005

Hang on, did the BBC say David Flint in Queensland? That couldn’t be our David Flint?

David Flint in Queensland in Australia, what was your thoughts? DF: Well it was a charming meaningful service. I think it was done so well. They looked marvellous, she is a very beautiful woman and I think this is now the end of all the silly sniping and the viciousness, and she will emerge from the shadows and she’ll show herself as a wonderful down to earth amusing lady. — BBC World Service, 10 April, 2005

Surely the BBC should tell their world wide listeners that this was no regular Aussie bloke giving the view from the colonies? That ‘Dave from Queensland’ is partisan on questions like the republic. There were some people who thought that this wedding, would make it more likely that Australians would vote for a Republic one day. Do you think so? — BBC World Service, 10 April, 2005

We’ll spare you Professor Flint’s views — they’re well covered on the web site of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. Visit the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy website and read the story in full David Flint is their National Convenor.

And why didn’t the BBC disclose this? It’s not a question about whether Australia needs a monarch as the head of state. Therefore we didn’t need to say he is a royalist. — BBC to Media Watch, 15 April, 2005

Baloney. But we doubt Prof Flint will complain. Regular Media Watch viewers will remember he was never a stern critic of folk who failed to disclose their interests.


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