The BBC has been accused of risking its objectives of fairness and impartiality by commissioning a documentary about the younger members of the Royal family from a once vocal critic of the monarchy.
Amol Rajan, the corporation’s media editor and a presenter of Radio 4’s Today Programme, will write and present a two-part series telling “the definitive story of one of the most dramatic periods in royal history for a generation”.
The Princes and the Press, on BBC Two, will examine the years in which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have charted what the BBC describes as “very different courses” in their relationships with the media.
But royal commentators have criticised “anti-monarchist” sentiments previously expressed by Mr Rajan.
In a 2012 column for the Independent critiquing the media’s relationship with the royals, he described the notion of a hereditary monarchy as “absurd” and Prince Charles as “scientifically illiterate”.
He wrote: “I have absolutely nothing against Prince Harry, or Prince William, or Catherine Middleton, or the Queen. Other royals, particularly Prince Philip and the scientifically illiterate Prince Charles, who champions policies that would lead to the murder by starvation of millions of Africans, I dislike.
“When it comes to our absurd monarchy, journalists are so bamboozled by aristocratic wealth that they can only portray a confected picture to their audience.
“Mrs Wales – spare us from the ‘Duchess of Cambridge’ – is a beautiful lady, and does noble work. But like the rest of us she is prone to bad moods and bad breath, and doesn’t look her best on a hangover. You wouldn’t know that from media coverage of her. What you get is an idol, not a person.”
The choice of Mr Rajan, 38, to front the documentary, which starts on Nov 22, has raised fears among supporters of the Royal family about its tone.
Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary, told The Telegraph: “Unfortunately reporting at the BBC seems to have fallen by the wayside – now it’s all about opinion. Has Amol Rajan changed his opinion since the Indie?”
Joe Little, of Majesty magazine, said: “Amol Rajan’s piece in the Independent, written during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, left readers in no doubt about his anti-monarchist stance. Nine years on, and now at the beleaguered BBC, it will be interesting to see if those sentiments prevail.
“I hope that as a presenter his approach will be more moderate and balanced to suit the institution that pays his salary.”
Episode one of The Princes and the Press covers the years following the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the positive media reaction to the emergence of a new generation of royals. It charts the years leading up to and including the engagement and marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The BBC said the documentary would provide the context for the Princes’ relationship with the media, examining some of the illegal activities engaged in by some newspapers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as hacking and “blagging”, and how these techniques were used to target members of the Royal family and their associates.
The corporation said: “This article predates Amol’s work at the BBC. Once journalists join the BBC, they leave past views at the door. Amol is an experienced BBC journalist who reports on all of the topics he covers in an impartial way and in line with the BBC’s editorial guidelines. All BBC current affairs output is required to be impartial.”