“Fact-checking” could be coming to TV drama – lest viewers start thinking they are watching a documentary, or perhaps a news program.
In particular, many who are currently up in arms in the UK over what they say is inaccurate portrayal of the royal family in the Netflix series, The Crown, seem to have little faith that viewers will be able to tell the difference on their own.
For that reason, UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has joined those who want Netflix to make it absolutely clear that this work of fiction is just that, fearing that otherwise, the perception of the royal family might suffer irreparable consequences by people taking every twist of plot and dialogue as factual representation of what had happened.
A part of the problem seems to be that the series’ screenwriter, Peter Morgan, is seen as a proponent of republicanism (i.e., anti-monarchy) in the UK, and that his script shows it. A friend of Prince Charles has been quoted making this statement, while Charles himself is seen as the one whose reputation would be damaged the most from any wrong perceptions stemming from this TV drama.
Viewers are variously described as “being lured” and “manipulated.” One example is the claim in the series that Charles continued his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles during his marriage to Diana, which critics say is false, even though he admitted it in 1994.
Among those calling for facts to be established and labels and disclaimers placed on the TV series are the Mail on Sunday, Margret Thatcher’s allies, Navy commanders who participated in the Falklands war, but also Diana’s brother Earl Spencer, while some conservative politicians are looking for ways to “punish” Netflix by exploring why it pays corporate tax on UK subscriptions in the Netherlands (where the streaming service is based in Europe).
On the other hand, what’s particularly concerning to those critical of Netflix here is the huge audience the series has had so far – 29 million in the first week, more than half a million more than tuned in to watch the Charles and Diana wedding.