James O'Brien reacts to Culture Secretary's concerns over The Crown

30 November 2020, 13:52 | Updated: 30 November 2020, 14:00

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien questions why, as the arts face "existential threat", Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is calling for Netflix to clarify that drama series The Crown is fictional.

Mr Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is calling for a warning at the beginning of each episode, stating that The Crown is a "beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that.

“Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

The latest series of The Crown introduces Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla, which has caused controversy.

James could not imagine that the fictionality of a television drama was "of national importance" during a pandemic.

"If theatres weren't facing existential threat, if cinemas weren't teetering on the brink of commercial oblivion, if film and television production in this country hadn't ground to a shuddering halt over most of 2020 and if live music venues and sundry other performance hubs weren't facing potential extinction, you might just be able to make a case for the Secretary of State for Culture prioritising a television programme's makers and insisting that they tell viewers it's not completely real."

James countered that he may be missing a really important point and The Crown viewers have more expertise than him as he did not agree with watching it and "glamourising people that entire achievement in life is an accident of birth".

He also pointed out that nobody alive would have had privileged access to Princess Diana and Prince Charles' innermost personal life, so of course much of the script is conjecture.

A friend of Prince Charles reportedly told the Mail on Sunday that series writer Peter Morgan is doing "lasting damage to the monarchy" through the medium of "light entertainment."

James said, "To which I would respond, if you know it's light entertainment, why do you need to put a warning on it telling people essentially it is light entertainment?"