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BBC and APTN block satire of royal wedding

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders deplores the actions of the BBC and the Associated Press Television News (APTN) in censoring satirical coverage of the 29 April 2011 royal wedding in London by The Chaser, an Australian comedy team.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was forced to cancel The Chaser's alternative coverage of the wedding after the BBC threatened to withdraw its feed from the national broadcaster if it did not stop the programme. The BBC was apparently responding to directions from Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales.

"Satire is an important element of free expression in a democratic country," Reporters Without Borders said. "This interference with Australian broadcasting sends the wrong message to many countries where the right to caricature is constantly denied. The BBC and the royal family should have shown more tolerance and perhaps a bit more of a sense of humour."

One of The Chaser's founders, Dominic Knight, wrote on the ABC website: "Intellectual property law recognises that some properties should, by their nature, be in the public domain (. . .) A large proportion of the cost of the wedding is being paid for by the (British) public (. . .) Australian law recognises the value of parody and satire in a democracy by exempting it from copyright restrictions."

APTN published restrictions on its website excluding any use of the footage for comedy or satirical purposes.

The royal family imposed other restrictions on coverage of the wedding. According to the blog, equipment was installed in Westminster Abbey to block use of Twitter. TV broadcasters approved this initiative on the grounds that it would help to reduce noise from the use of mobile phones.

Reporters Without Borders congratulates The Chaser on the satirical letter it sent to the Queen asking for a "stay of execution."

The organisation also refers readers to The Chaser website where there are clips of its satirical coverage.

Click here for "The Chaser" website

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