Controversial documentary Reinventing the Royals to finally air later this month

The account of “spin” after Princess Diana’s death was postponed from a late December broadcast

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BBC2 documentary Reinventing the Royals, which examines the use of ‘spin’ techniques following the death of Princess Diana, will finally air on 19 February – almost two months after legal intervention pulled it from the schedules, as exclusively revealed by Radio Times

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The 11th-hour postponement took place after the programme had already been included in listings (scheduled for a prestigious New Year slot at 9pm on Sunday 4 January), and as Radio Times understands, was ordered by James Harding, head of BBC news and current affairs. Danny Cohen, BBC director of television, is also understood to have seen the film.

“Before Christmas, it became clear that there were issues relating to the clearance of archive footage in the forthcoming programme Reinventing the Royals,” a BBC spokesman said in a statement.

“These issues have now been resolved and all the archive material we planned to use is included in the finished programme.

“The first episode of Reinventing the Royals will be broadcast on 19 February and it will be the one that we always intended to show.”

Reinventing the Royals is presented by Steve Hewlett, a former editor of Panorama who ran the show when Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana caused tensions between the BBC and the royal family. The new documentary is believed to examine attempts to improve public perception of Prince Charles following his first wife’s death in 1997, as well as William and Harry’s relationship with the press.

Speaking to Radio Times back in December, Hewlett revealed that the programme features the first ever television interview with Prince Charles’ then-press secretary Sandy Henney (above) who describes how his public image was in tatters when she took up her post in 1993: “He was getting some pretty virulent criticism – bad father, unloving husband. I think he was pretty hurt… if you’ve got a middle-aged balding man and a beautiful princess, it’s a no-brainer as to who is going to get the media coverage.”

Unlike most programmes based around the family, the documentary was made without the cooperation of Buckingham Palace or Clarence House.

However, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph last month, Prince Charles’ communications director Kristina Kyriacou stated that Clarence House had “neither blocked nor attempted to block the proposed programme”.

“The decision to broadcast – and when – is that of the BBC alone,” she said.

“Clarence House is solely interested in receiving assurances regarding fairness, accuracy and tone in accordance with the principles of editorial fairness and obligations under the BBC editorial guidelines and the Ofcom broadcasting code.”

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Reinventing the Royals will air on BBC2 on Thursday 19 February at 9:00pm