Censorship in Documentary Film-Making
After the gushing documentary ‘Our Queen’ was aired on British television, several newspapers rubbed their eyes incredulously. Where are all the intelligent documentaries about the British Royal Family?
This mock display of concern hides the real question. I’m sure even the reader of this article can guess why there are no investigative films about the Royal family.
Yet it will surprise some to learn that a small handful of revelatory films do exist.They have been made. The reason why you haven’t seen them is because broadcasters are too frightened to air them.
Today, filmmakers face two types of censorship. ‘Type A’ is the good and open kind, managed by film classification bodies and the other ‘Type B’, is the darker hidden kind. Censorship by establishment thumb-screwing. A condition that I have coined as the: ‘Royalty Loyalty Trap’.
The ‘Trap’ is in fact a condition and is defined in the following way: broadcasters can be attracted to the idea of an informative, well researched film about past or present royals. The idea might even reach the point of production. However, commissioners will often exhibit the rictus effect of this condition as they approach transmission.
The first sign is the wrenching out of story elements for fear of offending Royal sensibilities. Then as the narrative unravels, the corporate lawyers appear with complex legal provisos (the thumb-screw part). The final leg sees the commissioner unspooling the deal completely with no recourse for the filmmaker when the wounded programme is finally put out of its misery as its head is unceremoniously chopped off with a blunt instrument.
Filmmakers are making the films. The hidden trap is the television executive who kills the film off before exhibition.
The ‘Royalty Loyalty Trap’ is a body politic condition compounded by the beltway media. Professionally crying foul when they learn about any kind of compromised freedoms (a democratic feint), they are eventually caught in the same rictus state of Royalty Loyalty, always diminishing from the chamber by avoiding the printed word and presumably walking backwards as they leave the room.