Broadcasters let Buckingham Palace censor Coronation coverage - ex-Sky News boss

King Charles being crowned
The King's Coronation was watched by more than 18 million people on British TV

Broadcasters should "stand up for themselves" against royal spin doctors, who were able to "censor" and "dictate" coverage of the King's Coronation, a former head of Sky News has said.

John Ryley said broadcasters had become "supine", "incurious" and "compliant" when it comes to the Royal Family.

Buckingham Palace put "extraordinary restrictions" on the use of footage from May's Coronation, he added.

He said the media was "shy to question the monarchy's power and authority".

Mr Ryley, who stepped down as Sky News boss in May after 17 years, made the comments during the Royal Television Society's Steve Hewlett memorial lecture on Thursday.

'Age of deference is over'

He called for journalists and producers to apply the same rigour to stories about the royals - who he noted are publicly-funded - as they would to any other story.

"They do not at the moment. They are too supine, too incurious, too compliant," he said.

"Broadcasters need to stand up for themselves, and treat the Royal Family like any other public institution.

"The Royal Family and their spin doctors, whatever fancy titles they have, need to understand the age of editorial deference is well and truly over."

He added: "The shrouded dealings of the monarchy have formed an integral part of Britain's identity, yet both the national broadcaster and others are shy to question the monarchy's power and authority."

John Ryley
John Ryley stepped down as Sky News boss in May after 17 years

He went on say that before the coronation of King Charles III - which was shown live on BBC One, BBC Two and ITV plus news channels - Buckingham Palace "set out to totally dictate what could be broadcast".

Reading from a document apparently marked "private and confidential", he gave examples of what he called the "extraordinary restrictions on the use of the video".

"For example, on the TV, no pictures of the new King or Queen could be replayed until they had left Westminster Abbey," he said. "And the royal spin doctors had the opportunity to censor any pictures from the Coronation before they could be replayed on the day.

"On social media, no clips of the Coronation could be shown while the event was taking place... really? Thus in one go Buckingham Palace denied a whole generation of TikTok users and others from seeing the spectacle."

He branded the Royal Family an "analogue organisation flailing badly in a digital age".

Mr Ryley added that Buckingham Palace also dictated which clips of the ceremony could be shown in future broadcasts, giving the approved selection of highlights the "Orwellian" name of a "perpetuity edit".

The Guardian's media editor Jim Waterson wrote that his decision to speak out "has broken the omertà around the secret agreements between British television and the royal family over coverage of formal events".

BBC News has asked the BBC, ITV, Sky News and Buckingham Palace for comment.