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Director of National Historic Ships tears into BBC coverage of the Jubilee Pageant

Martyn Heighton, director of National HIstoric Ships UK, has torn into what he called the BBC's "shocking" coverage of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3rd June. 

"Clare Balding’s statement in today’s Daily Telegraph (8th June) that executives decided 'looking at boats for how ever many hours might be dull' exposes the bankruptcy of imagination, intelligence, and lack of appreciation of heritage, coupled with a  patronising attitude to the general public, which so palpably besets the BBC’s senior management. 

... "At the behest  of the BBC’s Pageant team, this organisation supplied the BBC with a full list of all the vessels on the National Registers in both the Pageant and Parade of sail; short, broadcast-friendly histories of vessels across the spectrum of types attending;  links to our website so that the BBC could delve further if it so wished, and a standing invitation to contact me or my staff with any further queries they might have. 

"Furthermore, and again at the request of the Trust, we acted as go-between bringing together the BBC with the  owner of Amazon, the remarkable screw schooner which attended the Spithead Review celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and which, after crossing the Atlantic and over-wintering in Ireland,  made passage to the Thames to take part of the Parade of Sail.

"We might just as well not have bothered."

Martyn Heighton concluded: 

"I am left wondering what the BBC holds to be 'interesting'. I am minded to take my recording of the broadcast and overlay it with the commentary which we believe should have been the one on the day, inviting  as part of this exercise the excellent Tom Cunliffe, who was utterly side-lined during the broadcast and prevented from sharing in his inimitably enthusiastic style, the extensive knowledge he holds on the subject. It would be instructive to see the difference. Perhaps I should send the resultant programme  to the Director General with my compliments as a training video."

Tuesday 12 June  | Andrew Denny  | 1.42pm, Tuesday 12 June 2012


Please, please, please Martyn Heighton would you do exactly as you are minded, insisting that by way of recompense the BBC broadcast your version. It is the very least that these fascinating vessels and their stalwart crews deserve, many making unbelievable efforts and undergoing heroic journeys to attend the pageant. I am outraged that we were all denied what could have been a series of fascinating insights into this unrepeatable gathering of extraordinary craft and their dedicated owners and crew.

Jonathan Mosse  | 8.52PM, Tuesday 12 June

I thought it was an excellent letter - well done Martyn. As a participant in the event I was disappointed in the narrowboat coverage but nothing like as disappointed as I was about the historic ships coverage - especially the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships (ADLS) . My friend Mike took his narrowbeam Marylebone Tug White 'Heather' (the last remaining one) in the event - there was no coverage and President got superficial coverage - the BBC coverage was, in my opinion (when viewed in retrospect), a shameful disgrace and not worthy of the corporation to whom we are obliged to pay our licence fees.

Kathryn Dodington  | 7.06PM, Saturday 16 June

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