Channel 4 uses off-the-record interviews for Queen doc

Channel 4 is to air an ‘unauthorised’ TV series on the Queen – based on interviews with royal insiders – around the same time as a crucial decision by ministers on its future funding is due.

The five-part series, The Queen, was described by the broadcaster today as part-documentary, part-drama.

Scheduled to be broadcast in a 9pm slot during the summer, it will explore key events in the monarch’s 55-year reign and her relationships with figures including Margaret Thatcher and Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The programme includes testimony – both on- and off-the-record – from royal insiders who witnessed events in the Palace.

Announcing the launch at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London this afternoon, head of Channel 4 Julian Bellamy told journalists: “I don’t think [the Palace] have been formally notified.

“We’re known for having an alternative take and being more comfortable with an unauthorised perspective than perhaps other broadcasters,” he added.

“We’ll absolutely be properly respectful but we will be as robust as we always are.”

The series was commissioned by Channel 4 head of documentaries Hamish Mykura and is being produced by independent TV company Blast Films. It will also air on ABC in the United States.

Each episode will focus on a pivotal year in Elizabeth II’s reign – including the 1974 kidnap attempt on Princess Anne and the 2005 marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The tension between the crown and the government under Margaret Thatcher is also explored, and the “annus horribilis” of 1992 when Diana published her memoirs, Windsor Castle caught fire and three royal marriages broke down.

Channel 4 is currently awaiting the findings of Lord Carter’s interim report on Digital Britain, which will suggest how it can plug an estimated £150m-a-year funding shortfall.

Carter’s final report is due in the summer, and any proposed changes to Channel 4’s ownership are likely to require legislation.

In 2007, the BBC apologised to the Queen for an editing mix-up during a press screening of a documentary on the Queen – which appeared to show the monarch storming out of a photoshoot.

The lapse led to the resignations of BBC One controller Peter Fincham and Stephen Lambert, the creative of director of RDF Media, the TV indie that had produced the programme.

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