Journalists feared the BBC had been snubbed by St James’s Palace because of claims that it would be more critical of the Royal Family when ITN was given exclusive access to Prince Charles’ visit to a bed and breakfast in Cumbria.
ITN’s Tom Bradby travelled from London to cover the Prince’s two-night stay with Hazel and Joe Relph at Yew Tree Farm in Borrowdale.
BBC regional correspondent Kevin Bocquet and royal correspondent Jennie Bond were said to have been taken aback when they found out about the visit and realised that Bradby appeared to have been tipped off in advance.
A source said there was concern that the palace was reacting to reports about a memo sent by head of television news Roger Mosey about the BBC’s royal coverage. "What added to the suspicion was that the Relph family would not co-operate with the BBC afterwards and refused to give an interview," the source said.
Both Bond and Bocquet declined to comment, referring all calls to the BBC press office.
A spokesman denied that it had been left out in the cold over the visit, claiming that it was the result of a "genuine exclusive" by ITN.
But it meant that the visit, which was also covered by the Press Association, was high on ITV’s News at Ten running list on Thursday, but was not on the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News.
BBC insiders believe it was meant as "a gentle shot across the bows" from the palace following reports that the BBC was considering making its coverage of the Royal Family less "fawning".
A spokeswoman for St James’s Palace denied the decision to give the scoop to ITN had anything to do with the BBC’s editorial policy.
By Julie Tomlin