Channel 4’s decision to broadcast private video recordings of Diana, Princess of Wales, which featured Diana speaking candidly about her upbringing, her troubled marriage and her public life.has been condemned as “exploitative” and “hurtful”.
The late Diana discussed her failing marriage and her love affair with a royal protection officer in the documentary.
The princess spoke candidly to her voice coach, Peter Settelen, during a series of meetings at Kensington Palace in 1992-93. He taped them, ostensibly to improve her public speaking technique.
Following the princess’s death in 1997, the tapes found their way into the hands of her butler, Paul Burrell. Earl Spencer fought an unsuccessful legal battle to claim them, but they reverted to Mr Settelen.
He has sold them to Channel 4 for an undisclosed sum and they form the heart of a documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words, to be shown next Sunday.
Friends of the Royal family are said to be aghast that the private tapes will be aired, barely a week after Princes William and Harry paid public tribute to their mother with a film of their own. Critics say the film is “exploitative” and “ghoulish”.
Some viewers agreed with the tapes being aired, but others called the documentary “sensationalist” and “trashy”.
The programme secured Channel 4’s highest overnight viewing figures in more than a year with the stats showing an average audience of 3.5 million and a peak of 4.1 million. These figures include those watching on Channel 4+1 an hour later.
According to Penny Junor, a royal biographer; “This is just another way of exploiting Diana. It’s not what Charles would want and it’s clearly not what the boys would want. It will be deeply hurtful to them.
“It seems to me a very bad idea to broadcast these tapes, especially at this difficult time for the family.”
However, Channel 4 remains defensive about its decision to air the recordings as deputy chief creative officer, Ralph Lee saying;
“The idiom – that she’s sitting on a sofa – is very familiar. She’s very clearly talking to someone in front of a camera. There’s nothing surreptitious,” he said.
“The word that has been used is that the footage is somehow ‘ghoulish’. I simply don’t agree with that. She is self-consciously and clearly taking part in a filmed process. I don’t think viewers will feel greatly uneasy with that.”
While some have condemned the documentary’s broadcast, it has also received some praises
— chrissie russell (@chrissierussell) August 6, 2017
No one was more charismatic than Princess Diana. No one. 20 years on it's still heartbreaking she's no longer with us #DianaInHerOwnWords
— Dan Wootton (@danwootton) August 6, 2017