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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2011

BBC leads the way on splendid TV coverage

BY MARIA SCIULLO
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

For those of us who will never dine at the palace, it was a funny but telling tidbit that made the whole three-ring circus relative.

NBC Today co-anchorman Meredith Vieira noted a British tabloid had hired a lip-reader to watch the royal wedding service. By her account, when Prince William, the new Duke of Cambridge, took his place at the altar alongside Catherine and the bride's father, Michael Middleton, he joked, "We were supposed to have just a small, family affair. "

Royals are human, after all.

An estimated 2 billion people watched the wedding of the new century. Many news organizations streamed the ceremony online as well, with correspondents tweeting and updating Facebook pages.

But television remained the mass media of choice. BBC anchor Huw Edwards kicked off the network's coverage at 3 a.m. EST, welcoming the 180 viewing countries.

Not counting this week's run-up of everything from wedding-themed films on Turner Classic Movies to several biopics of the Kate/Wills love story, the actual day-of stories played out in three parts. First, there was the pre-show. BBC got a one-hour jump on everyone else, with networks major and minor logging in around 4 a.m.

Click here to read more on the royal wedding.

The clear winner was the BBC, which had just about everything in its favor. American networks can hire all the royals experts they want, but this was an occasion that just cried out for the BBC's venerable historians and general grasp of what the wedding means to Prince William's future subjects.

Among its packaged interviews: Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, who said "no matter how large the global audience, essentially this is about two people making a hugely important, deeply personal commitment, and it [the wedding] has to be personal for them. "

As guests filed into Westminster Abbey, very few were easily recognizable to American audiences (Sir Elton John, David Beckham and wife, Victoria), so it was more fun to gasp at the wild hats and "fascinators " worn by almost all of the women.

Almost all of the networks followed the wedding party's progress to the church in similar fashion, but ABC made a major faux pas by lingering a moment too long inside with Queen Elizabeth before cutting outside, where Kate was just stepping out of the car for the big dress reveal.

There was no clear winner among broadcasters during the ceremony, as it was the same (and blissfully, almost comment-free) on all channels. Katie Couric of CBS did pipe up a couple of times at the beginning.

LONDON BLOG: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette royal wedding blog.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Maria Sciullo is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Maria Sciullo at: msciullo@post-gazette.com, or 412-263-1478.



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