THE QUEEN IS DEAD!

I know she’s not really, but one day that will be the headline, and occassionally in mornings I wonder if I’m going to be faced with it.  This isn’t me saying I’m looking forward to that day (I wouldn’t wish death on anyone, much.  A certain Austrian with a basement springs to mind.), I’m just wondering about the day when it arrives, if I’m still alive myself of course.

In the UK the event will of course be a landmark media moment, as would be expected.  We’ve seen how the media dealt with the deaths of Princess Diana (struck with grief & guilt), and more recently Jade Goody (struck with guilt & expediancy).  The world’s media covered the events of September 11th 2001 with its jaw on the floor in shock whilst rubber necking and celebrating in the horror.  Shocking events like September 11th and the death of Diana catch the media off-guard, as they obviously aren’t things that can be planned for, but media coverage of the queen’s funeral is an event that has been planned behind the scenes for years.  (See this story about the plans for the queen’s funeral being stolen in 2004).

So it will be interesting to see how the media will deal with the death of the queen in this post-Diana/post Sept 11th age of 24hr news coverage, and also, how the story will be covered abroad, especially in the commonwealth countries.  (The Zimbabwe press coverage would be an interesting read!)

In many ways it will be seen as a litmus test to how relevant the monarchy is to British identity and how seriously it’s seen across the world, and how viewed across the commonwealth.  No doubt the sympathy coming from all corners of the world will be overwhelming, but will any mass media outlets, especially in the UK, break from protocol and be radically critical about the future of the monarchy, outside of the expected ‘think pieces’ in the British broadsheets about the challenges ahead for the royal identity? 

Also keep your eyes open for any changes in the ‘national mood’, (if there is such a thing).  Will it become a more nationalistic time (even if just temporary around the week surrounding the state funeral)?  Will this period since her coronation in1953 become known as the Elizabeth era.  (Elizabethan sounds too ‘ye olde’, and it’s been done already!).  She may be represented as the silent woman in the corner, but she’s seen eleven and a half Prime Ministers come and go including Churchill, Thatcher and Blair (Brown is the half), the end of the Cold War, the transition from a physical to an economic colonisation of the African continent, and the global shift from national economies to a globalized free market system.   Prince Charles will have some large shoes to fill, if he decides to wear shoes at all.  He’s more of a sandals man. 

In all of this branding and re-branding of the sense of the ‘national mood’, of course the media will be playing the central role, arguably not only reflecting the mood, but also directing it. 

This will be an interesting time also for community media, particularly community radio, in reporting these events.  How much will community radio stations echo and rely on coverage from the mainstream, and how much will they generate themselves and present challenging ideas?

The tightrope that any critique will have to walk is that, for the majority of people living in the UK today she’s the only monarch any of us have ever experienced, and on the whole she mostly viewed as a harmless individual with not much actual political power.  What the reality is of that statement is of course up for much debate and research.  Left wing politics has been all but eradicated in England, and it will be interesting to see if the event is used as a clarion call to redefine the next incoming era, and what differing or similar roles the mainstream and community media platforms will play in those debates. 

A content analysis of mainstream and alternative media outputs during these events would be fascinating evidence of, in cultural terms, “how alternative are they actually?”

Anyone interested in joining me to set up this research project, let me know. Until then, long live the queen.

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