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Bringing Home Royal Events to the States, Now and Then

The item in last week's news that the upcoming Royal Wedding in the UK will be available as a near instantaneous download on iTunes calls to mind a much earlier era of media coverage of the Royals.

Sig Mickelson's The Decade That Shaped Television News: CBS in the 1950s is one of the best books about the early days of network video journalism, and one of the most fascinating chapters recounts the great efforts expended by the American TV networks to cover the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

The tale involves a three-way battle between ABC, NBC and Mickelson's CBS to be first on the air in the United States with moving images of the coronation. ABC negotiated rights to images transported to Canada for the CBC, but NBC and CBS both employed various aircraft (including a Boeing Stratocruiser outfitted with a film editing suite, so that the raw footage could be edited into a special program during the transatlantic flight; and a World War II surplus P-51 Mustang fighter plane owned by Jimmy Stewart to carry the film on the final leg of the journey to New York).

In the end, Mickelson writes, it was hardly worth the effort, and everybody suffered the wrath of New York Times radio and TV critic Jack Gould, who characterized NBC and CBS's coverage as having a "depressing lack of understanding, judgment and common sense." (Mickelson, p. 108)

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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Western States Museum of Broadcasting 2021