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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
BBC denies Royal birthday snub
queen mum
The Queen Mother marked her 99th birthday last year
The BBC has rejected suggestions that it snubbed the Queen Mother by opting not to show live coverage of a pageant marking her 100th birthday.

The Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Peter Ainsworth, has condemned the broadcast corporation for choosing instead to show Australian soap opera Neighbours.

However the BBC says there will be "significant coverage" of events surrounding the centenary celebrations.

Neighbours takes priority over the Queen Mother's birthday

Peter Ainsworth

Camels and corgis will take part in the spectacular 19 July pageant on London's Horseguards Parade, alongside military bands, a choir, an orchestra and thousands of people.

A BBC spokesman said: "No one looking at the entirety of the coverage we are presenting to celebrate the Queen Mum's birthday could agree that we are snubbing her.

"The BBC is spending over 1m alone on BBC One programming to commemorate this great occasion."

However the Daily Mail has launched a campaign to secure live television coverage of that event.

And Mr Ainsworth regards the BBC's decision as "nothing short of insulting". He said its decision not to alter programming schedules was "incredulous and pathetic".

BBC birthday coverage
Thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral
Two-hour special on her actual birthday, 4 August
Songs of Praise special from QM's birthplace in Glamis
Radio Two show reflecting music from her era

"We regularly see sporting events overrun and take precedence over news programmes.

"It speaks volumes about the culture within the BBC that Neighbours takes priority over the Queen Mother's birthday."

The first event marking the Queen Mother's birthday will be a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on 11 July, which will be attended by all the members of the Royal Family.

On 19 July, Horseguards Parade will be the focus of attention.

On her 100th birthday, on 4 August, the Queen Mother is expected to make her traditional appearance outside her London home, Clarence House.

She will be taken by carriage up The Mall to Buckingham Palace where the Queen Mother is expected to make an appearance on the Palace balcony with her daughters, the Queen and Princess Margaret.

queen mum
Day at the races: Cheltenham this year

This year's Horseguards pageant includes military representatives and massed military bands from the UK and around the Commonwealth.

Representatives from the 320 charities and organisations the Queen Mother is connected with will add to the celebrations.

Birthday cake

The day will peak with a performance by a cast of 1,000 children, followed by what the organisers promise will be "the largest birthday cake ever".

Most of the tickets to the Horseguards pageant will be distributed to the participating charities and there will be room for only 2,000 other spectators.

BBC News will cover the event in full - and BBC News Online will have a special in-depth section on the Queen Mother's remarkable 100 years.

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See also:

23 Apr 00 | UK
Royal Easter parade
04 Sep 99 | Scotland
Queen Mother misses Highland Games
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