LONDON, United Kingdom — I asked a London cab driver what he was planning to do to celebrate the royal wedding and he replied without hestitation: “I'm getting out of town.”
What about television? Was he going to watch it on the tube? “My wife will. Not me.”
With the big event only a few days away, he didn't sound very excited.
There has been so much hype in the British and American media, and indeed around the world, that you would have thought all of Britain is gearing up for the party of the century. But, in fact, given the chance to get off work and a bit of good weather, it seems as if half the population would rather take a break and get away from it all.
A whopping 47 percent of British adults told a recent poll that they were “not very” or “not at all” interested in the wedding of their future king and queen. And a surprising 43 percent said they were “unlikely” or “definitely will not” watch it on TV.
Maybe Brits are blase about their monarchy, but what about Americans, who are supposed to be fascinated by the royal family their ancestors fought to get rid of? In another reality check, 65 percent of Americans told a recent poll they were “not interested” in the royal wedding.
So who should we believe, the polls or the celebrity-obsessed media, which have been the flogging the William and Kate story for all it is worth?
I did an international press search on the internet and found the royal wedding story popping up all around the world. There was this item from the Cotidianul newspaper in Bucharest, which Google translated from the original Romanian as follows:
“For several days, a rumor circulating in the village of Visci Brasov, where Prince Charles has several properties. According to British press, Prince William and his future wife, Kate, passed the village on the short list of possible locations for honeymoons."
Where have the world's media been getting their information? Much of it from the British government and the hyperventilating British tabloids.
It's Her Majesty's Government that is predicting a worldwide television audience of 2 billion for the wedding. As far as I can tell, that is at best a wild guess snatched out of thin air. The actual audience — those who will tune in to watch the entire ceremony — is likely to be much smaller, even counting the village of Visci Brasov.
As for the “hordes of foreign journalists” said to be descending on London for the big story, that's an exaggeration, too. For example, The Wall Street Journal claimed that CNN was sending 400 people to London. CNN says the real figure is 50. And CBS News, which originally was said to be planning to send 200 to London, has taken a second look and wisely cut the number to 60.
Nevertheless, if they are not turned off by the breathless publicity, Americans can watch the wedding on their televisions or other electronic devices from 6 a.m. ET Friday, or several hours earlier if they want to see the preliminaries.
The actual ceremony is a magical, made-for-TV event. I covered the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981 for CBS News, and will be glued to my television at home for this one. Forget the hype and enjoy a real feel-good story. They are rare these days.