Abrams: Queen’s funeral dominated cable news for hours


(NewsNation) — American news networks went wall-to-wall Monday, covering the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The queen was laid to rest in Windsor Castle beside her late husband Prince Philip. But did we really need that much news coverage?

Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets of London to pay tribute to the queen. Her casket was paraded on a grand procession through the city. The service followed at Westminster Abbey, where President Joe Biden and scores of other world leaders were on hand for England’s first state funeral since Winston Churchill died.

It is newsworthy, for sure. She was a truly titanic figure and is eminently deserving of all the accolades she has been receiving in the day since her passing.

Now, if this were the BBC, I could understand why her death would result in nonstop coverage for days on end. I still don’t get the amount of American media coverage surrounding the royals, from Harry and Meghan to William and Kate to the queen and now the king and yes, even the service from 4 a.m. Eastern time all the way through to 1 p.m.

All three of the biggest cable news networks went all in on the queen for nine hours on cable news. Absolutely nothing else was covered. Not a minute devoted to any other topic.

President Biden gave a big news-making interview to 60 Minutes, the entire island of Puerto Rico was without power due to a devastating hurricane, more migrants were bused into Democratic strongholds. Yet, those stories and all the others were ignored for the funeral of the 96-year-old British monarch.

I might not even have such an issue with the news networks covering the service uninterrupted for nine hours if there was actually nine hours worth of things to say. But with that much airtime to fill, the networks focused on some really inane details surrounding the ceremony, like doing a complete inventory of the queen’s jewels.

During those nine hours, factoids were picked apart and newscasters obsessed over every last detail of the service, including the clothing that everyone wore. The media seemed thoroughly engrossed with every stitch of these outfits. The fashion correspondents seemed to be in their glory Monday. Plus, the fawning over the queen was endless.

It was all part of an effort by the Big Three cable news networks Monday to not just broadcast this service, but to sell it and they weren’t alone. The broadcast networks went all in on the queen’s service.

ABC and NBC each devoted eight hours — uninterrupted — to the funeral. CBS was a bit more restrained with a modest four hours of coverage. In an effort to explain why this was so momentous, they shared some truly wild predictions about the viewership that the service did receive with claims of four billion people watching the funeral.

Wait … of the estimated eight billion people in the world, more than half watched the queen’s funeral? That seems tough to believe.

It appears that the four billion prediction that the networks ran with a source to a DailyMail article, which quoted one expert who is identified as a TV analyst who provided scant details to backup the far flung claims.

Indeed, early ratings data from several major countries, including the UK, suggests that viewership was enormous but will fall dramatically short of this estimate.

But hey, it makes the network’s nonstop coverage seem a little more justifiable. But even if it were true, it doesn’t explain why nine uninterrupted hours needed to be devoted to this.

History is important. I’ve written four books on major American figures in history. But history also has its place.

We’re talking about news networks that are supposed to be covering news. I get some coverage, the big story, but I remain baffled by the American obsession with the royals.

But hey, the ratings were solid for the cable networks, about 50 percent higher than normal for those time slots. I guess all that uninterrupted coverage paid off.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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