Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

King Charles III Crowned In Grand Ceremony; How The World Sees The United States; China And Australia's Wary Relations; China's Power Plays In The Asia Pacific; The Rising U.S.-China Tensions; Interview With Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 07, 2023 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA: Today on the program, the coronation of Charles III. How different will his reign be from that of his mother? We will explore.

Also, the curious case of the alleged attack on the Kremlin. China's power play in the Asia Pacific and the American economy. I'll talk about all that and more with an all-star panel.

Finally, Bernard Henri Levi started filming in Ukraine just days after the war began. I'll talk to him about his new documentary "Slava Ukraini" and how he thinks this tragic war will end.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. We now have a Biden doctrine. The Biden administration has set it out in a striking recent address by the National Security adviser Jake Sullivan. Sullivan outlines the administration's international economic policy but it is really the overarching framework for President Biden's approach to the world defining in lucid terms the ideas behind the slogan of foreign policy for the middle class.

Sullivan is a fiercely intelligent thinker and skilled policy maker who has come to dominate policy in the administration. His speech showcases these talents and many of the specific initiatives are smart and worth pursuing. But the overall approach left me worried along three broad dimensions.

First, it is a fundamentally pessimistic view of America's recent history. Sullivan recalls the glory days of American economic power after 1945 but then notes that in the last few decades, that strength has waned. He talks about the hollowing out of the country's industrial base, the export of American jobs and the atrophying of industries. We stopped really focusing on building, Sullivan said, as he summarized the subsidies, tariffs, bans and investments that are at the heart of Biden's new approach. Ironically, only a couple of weeks before Sullivan made his speech,

"The Economist" had a cover story on America's astonishing economic record. It begins with 1990, often used as the start of the rot in the narrative of decline and points out that despite the rise of huge new economies like China and India, the U.S.'s share of global GDP has stayed roughly the same as in 1990. Around 25 percent then and now.

America's share of the G7's economic output actually increased substantially from 40 percent to 58 percent. Today the vast majority of the world's top 10 companies are American. In 1989, four were American. Six were Japanese.

As for building, during these decades, America created and built the information economy. Surely one of the greatest transformations and advances in human history. In 1990, the great fear in America was of being overtaken by Japan, then seen as the predatory economic power that was eating our lunch.

But as "The Economist" notes in the same edition, in 1990, America's income per person was just 17 percent higher than Japan. Today it is a staggering 54 percent higher. Look at demographics or energy or leading technology companies. And everywhere you see America in a dominant position. Perhaps we got something right.

The other worry I have is off the efficacy of largescale government intervention in the economy. Sullivan outlines the need for federal subsidies in key areas either to maintain the technological lead or for national security reasons. Brilliant people like Sullivan may think they are well positioned to identify the key strategic industries that need support.


But historically these kind of interventions have not gone so well. Companies focus on lobbying the government rather than responding to the market. Subsidies once in place become eternal. And innovation slows down. In the 1980s and '90s, Japan's much admired technocrats picked industries and companies to push the country into the lead. In the words of a "Harvard Business Review" essay, the strategic investments in artificial intelligence, maglev trains, micro machines and HDTV all proved to be multi-million dollars debacles.

Finally, Sullivan insisted that these policies were not designed to be America first or alone. But the facts are clear. Almost every element of Joe Biden's economic policy has a buy America component to it. Its green subsidies are causing some European companies to build new plants in America. This sounds great but not to the Europeans who must now offer industries their own bribes to invest at home instead.

It conjures up an autarchic vision of the world that is quite far removed from reality. The iPhone, for example, is made with products from dozens of countries across six continents, though the vast majority of its profits accrue in the United States. And as the U.S. preaches the need for a rules-based international order, it is worth noting that it is violating the core of that order. Every one of these policies is in violation of the letter or spirit of

the WTO and its framework of open trade. This hypocrisy is rarely discussed in the U.S. but frequently and angrily pointed out abroad.

The greatest challenge for Americans over the last few decades has been that middle class wages have not kept up with rising costs of living. That problem will surely get exacerbated by raising costs of goods throughout the economy through tariffs and industrial policy. As Larry Summers points out, protecting the 60,000 workers in the American steel industry sounds smart but when you do it by raising the price of steel, the six million workers who use steel as an input in their goods all suffer.

A foreign policy that produces persistent, systemic inflation will fail to deliver for the middle class who are, as Joe Biden often said, its intended beneficiaries.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

The freshly crowned king being kissed on the cheek by the next in line for the throne. That seems like a perfect clip to frame a conversation about the future of the British monarchy, and I asked Joanna Coles to come in and talk to me about exactly that. Born in Britain, Coles is a longtime journalist, editor, author and executive.

You have too many titles to describe --


ZAKARIA: The former editor-in-chief of everything, "Marie Claire," you know, "Cosmo."

How do you contrast this coronation with the last one? This is the longest gap between coronations.

COLES: Yes, it's been 70 years and it's extraordinary to think how the world has changed. When Princess Elizabeth was crowned in 1952, Britain was still a huge dominant global power. And she actually was officially, when she became queen, the head of state of 32 different countries. The empire has obviously slimmed down countries, you know, seceding faster than you could say their names. And actually she was in Kenya when she learned that her father George VI had died and that she would become queen and of course Kenya 10 years later, you know, declared independence.

So Britain's own role in the world is very different. The coronation at the time, they had 7,000 people in the cathedral, or the abbey, Westminster Abbey, and they were largely, frankly, toughs. They were people, you know, who, within the class system in Britain, felt utterly entitled to attend, and what you saw in King Charles is a coronation with a very different Britain. Much more inclusive, lots of health workers turning up after the COVID crisis instead of sort of, you know, baronets and coronets of God knows where, God knows why reason they're in the House of Lords. ZAKARIA: Charles is trying to do this sort of slim down monarchy and

modernize it. Do you think it'll work? I was struck by if you look at the statistics on what part of Britain supports the monarchy.


What is striking is I think we have a chart there. As you get older, your support grows. So, you know, young people, it's at 32 percent. Old people it's at 78 percent. Will he succeed in making the monarchy relevant?

COLES: Well, he says he wants to slim it down. But what did we see yesterday? An enormous global event. And if you think of what's happened to Britain politically, not only has it lost its empire and but it had its own self-imposed decision to leave Europe. So it's this little island on the edge of Europe.

What it can do, what ground Britain is now, is this sort of brilliant creative event-making process. You know, you think of Peter Morgan and the crown, some of the top shows on Netflix, the British -- you know, British written, British directed, British actors. You saw Emma Thompson very much in evidence at the coronation yesterday. And they say they're sliming it down but what they're actually using is for is a shop window, I think, to promote brand Britain. And it's a luxury brand. It's the creative industry that Britain is really good at and this was the shop window to see them.

ZAKARIA: Charles, as prince of Wales, was very outspoken as, you know, as much as a royal can be about the environment, about architecture, about sustainable farming. You know, he had views on Islam. I actually thought mostly he was right about most of what he talked about but you can't do that as king, can you?

COLES: Well, we'll find out. I mean, what's interesting to a point is that he was often ahead of his time. So a huge believer in addressing climate change, big convener of thinkers. I think what you're going to see is a sort of think tank monarchy. I mean, Tina Brown who's written brilliantly about the royal family talks about him being a transitional monarch, and then you think of William sitting at the coronation yesterday, what must he have been thinking watching his father especially in that very moving moment that you showed where he bends to kiss him.

But I think Charles will be a think tank monarchy. He was told by Liz Truss, the British prime minister who literally lasted less famously than a head of lettuce, that he couldn't go to COP. So he didn't go to COP. But what he did do rather brilliantly was convene his own version of COP at the weekend which actually everybody said was much more interesting and much more thoughtful than COP.

So I think he will be able to do this in a thoughtful, entertaining way which keeps the -- keeps the monarchy relevant but doesn't make it too provocative.

ZAKARIA: We have a minute left. Harry. Any thoughts on that? COLES: I felt sad for him coming in like that, and I wonder what he

thought as he sort of came in on his own and slipped away in a black car on his own. And, you know, he said he wanted to be back home for his son's 4th birthday but what could have been a better birthday present than to be in the pageant of your grandfather being crowned king. First time in 70 years. So I hope that they resolve it.

I was glad he came. I think people in Britain felt glad he came. But I felt, you know, every parent sees that and has some inkling of what's going on. But I'm glad he came.

ZAKARIA: Joanna Coles, always a pleasure.

Next on GPS, mass shootings, looming debt ceiling crisis, and bitterly divided Washington. How is the U.S. perceived by the rest of the world? We'll be back in a moment with a global panel.



ZAKARIA: There is a ton I want to talk about with today's panel so let's get straight to it.

Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of "The Economist" joins us from London, and Michael Fullilove is normally 14 time zones away but is on set today with me in New York. He's the executive director of the Lowy Institute, an international think tank based in Sydney, Australia.

Michael, tell me, 14 time zones away, what does Joe Biden's America look like to you?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOWY INSTITUTE: Look, I think he deserves more credit than he gets. I think he's shaping up as a foreign policy president of the first rank if you think he responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a masterclass in state craft and alliance management. Russia looks much weaker now. NATO is larger and stronger. In Asia, I would say that he has managed the relationship with China as well as could be imagined.

You see U.S. allies moving towards the United States. You also see around the world connections between democracies quickening. You see democracies reaching out towards each other. And this comes off the back of the trauma of the Trump years. So I would say, from an allied perspective, Biden looks good.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, you guys did that editorial, that cover story that I mentioned in my opening take. Do you feel like that sense of America's economic strength is felt around the world and in Europe in particular?

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: I think it is. The sense of the strength is felt. But so too is what you brought out in your commentary which is a sense that America has now kind of changed the rules and that the upholder of the rules-based order is now going along on its own industrial policy that is not at all rule- based.

And I was listening to Michael's assessment, very upbeat assessment. I share a lot of what he said but I think certainly after the debacle of Afghanistan, there's been an enormous success in Ukraine so far in building alliances. But there's two areas that I would point to where I think there is an issue with the Biden administration and the first is what you spoke about at the beginning of the show. This industrial policy that is really in America first industrial policy. It is not focused primarily on the rest of the world.


And although increasingly there is an attempt to bring in alliances, this is an America that is not really open for market access trade deals. And that is not lost on the rest of the world. And actually one other thing, that big thing that I think the U.S. is falling short on, is bringing what people like to call the global south. But bringing the rest of the world with it. It has clearly -- the Biden administration has continued as tough a policy on China, in fact in many ways tougher than President Trump.

And it has united the Trans-Atlantic alliance over Ukraine. But a lot of the rest does not support Ukraine and is very skeptical of what the U.S. is doing. And I think to be sustainable in the medium and long term, those two things really have to be addressed.

ZAKARIA: What do you think about that? And particularly, you know, this issue of the global south. I don't know if you saw this very interesting article in "Foreign Affairs" by Ashley Talis, one of the smartest strategic analysts on Asia, and he says India is clearly going its own way. It is not becoming a dutiful American ally. It will not side with America in the -- you know, kind of the race with regard to China. It needs China for trade just as much as it needs America for some security assurances.

FULLILOVE: Well, there is no question that Chinese economy is so large it exerts a tremendous magnetic effect on every country in our region. There is no doubt that India has its own concerns and will chart its own course. But I'd say to you that notwithstanding that, everybody in Asia wants their own place in the sun. No one wants to live in the shadow of China. And so most countries in my part of the world want a leading role for the United States.

And yes, they may have some concerns about American policy from time to time. But I think in general, they see steadiness from the administration, they see the resilience of America and its economy. So that's why I feel positive actually.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, what will all this look like if there's a kind of serious game of chicken played with the debt crisis?

MINTON BEDDOES: Well, if it's a game of chicken that ends badly, it could be catastrophic. But, Fareed, you know, I lived in Washington for almost two decades and I've been through this several times, this debt ceiling game of chicken, and each time, you know, something is resolved at the last minute. But let's be clear. This is an utterly crazy way to run fiscal policy.

This artificial, political imposed deadline that causes this kind of fake sense of a debt crisis and a default. But not withstanding that, the U.S. does actually have a medium and long-term fiscal problem.

We have a piece in this week's issue which shows that I think for the last half century U.S. budget deficits averaged about 3.5. percent of GDP. Going forward, if you add on top of the official projection what the likely cost of this new industrial policy is going to be, if you add on the probability that there'll be a recession at some point, you're looking at 7 percent of GDP budget deficit.

That's twice as big. So there has to be some kind of agreement to cut spending but also to raise revenue. But, you know, both sides have put off entitlement reform. No one will touch that. No one will really do proper broad based tax increases. So this kind of very weird situation where you have a pantomime sort of display of brinkmanship right now which could end this disaster.

I mean, I'm not going to bet on it. Usually I think it gets sorted out. But who knows? Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, says, you know, default could come June 1st, the end of the ability to do extraordinary measures. But even if they get through that, there really is a fiscal problem that at some point needs to be dealt with.

ZAKARIA: Yes. I think you're right about the long-term -- the long- term problem is that for a while it's now been clear that Americans are very comfortable with the level of spending that the Democrats propose and the level of taxes that Republicans propose. That leaves a very large gap which we make up by borrowing.

All right. We're going to talk more about everything. Next on GPS, one of the things I want to bring up is there are only six countries in the world that have nuclear powered submarines roaring the oceans. There will soon be a seventh, Australia. Those new Western Pacific based subs are meant to send a major message to China. Will Beijing hear it and what will the consequences be? When we come back.



ZAKARIA: And we are back here on GPS with Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of "The Economist," and Michael Fullilove, the executive editor of Australia's Lowy Institute.

Michael, so you have these new nuclear-powered subs. The Chinese I'm sure are not happy. But Australia and China have gone through some pretty rough times. The Chinese had those 14 demands and then they blocked trade with --

FULLILOVE: Pretty wild.

ZAKARIA: -- with Australia. Where do things stand now?

FULLILOVE: Well, Australia's relationship has changed a lot with China in recent years because China has changed. China has become much harder edged and they didn't like Australian policy and they attempted a campaign really of economic coercion against Australia. It sort of petered out because of the high price of iron ore. There's been a change of government. And --

ZAKARIA: In Australia.

FULLILOVE: In Australia. So what you have -- certainly not in China. So what you have now is, from Australia, a dual track policy, diplomacy, and deterrence. On the diplomacy side, stabilizing the relationship with China, ending the silent treatment, talks between leaders and foreign ministers, but also on the deterrence side, as you say, investing in new capabilities including the nuclear-powered submarines that will give us more deterrent punch.

ZAKARIA: And trade is back to normal?

FULLILOVE: Well, trade actually at a macro level continued -- at the macro level it continued because of the high price of iron ore. There are still trade blockages on individual sectors and firms.


But in general trade didn't slow down much to the consternation of the Chinese.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, how does this look in Europe? Because, you know, I keep hearing from European statesmen and businessmen that, look, Europe has to do business with China. They will not be able to join in an American blockade. But yet the U.S. is pushing pretty hard. Where does all this end for Europe?

MINTON BEDDOES: So, I think there is a lot of questioning going on in Europe and a lot of soul searching about where exactly the Europeans should be. And you will remember the very, very angry reaction in Europe to those comments of President Emmanuel Macron when he came back basically saying, you know, Taiwan was not a European issue. And so, I think, the Europeans are trying to work this out.

And interestingly I've noticed in the last few weeks a sort of tad of a change of rhetoric from Washington which I think is designed to make it easier for the Europeans. In that speech from Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser that you described at the beginning of the show, where he laid out the Biden doctrine if you will, he mentioned that the focus was not decoupling but was -- and he quoted Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union president, the European Commission president to say that it was derisking.

And when I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago, everyone is very keen to tell me that this is about derisking and that the U.S. did not want decoupling and Secretary Yellen had said the same thing. Now, the trouble is that all the elements of the U.S. strategy -- they like to use this analogy, that the U.S. needs a small yard with a high wall. And that is been widely interpreted to be using U.S. economic weaponry to essentially push China -- keep China back in foundational technologies. And in Europe, there is a lot of concern about that. Because on the one hand I think there's growing recognition in Europe and growing worry about China. But on the other hand, as you say, particularly in countries like Germany, there is an incredible economic relationship with China. Companies like BASF and the German car companies essentially, you know, wouldn't be at all where they were without China.

ZAKARIA: Zanny, briefly tell me what was -- what was your sense of what is happening in China? Because you were in China recently for that annual China Development Forum. How do they -- how do the Chinese perceive what is going on?

BEDDOES: There is real anger. I was shocked, Fareed. I went back as you say a few weeks ago. I hadn't been there since 2019, four years. A real hardening and a sense that the United States is a bullying power determined to keep China down. They want us -- one scholar said to me to be a fat cat, not the tiger that the Chinese consider themselves to want to be.

And I came back really very gloomy, having been both in Washington and in Beijing, that both sides see the other as, you know, a mortal threat in some ways and that is -- this is a really dangerous position to be in. Subsequently there has, I think, been attempt to moderate the rhetoric but it's really grim out there. This is -- this is a relationship in terrible, terrible shape.

ZAKARIA: Michael, I have to ask you, before we go, you are Australian, which means that King Charles is technically your head of state.


ZAKARIA: What is that issue looking like in Australia? There had been a push for kind of republicanism and taking the British monarch off the European currency. Where do things stand and what do you think? Do you think Charles will be the last royal head of state of Australia?

FULLILOVE: Well let me say -- look, I thought the images from London were incredible. They showed us again that no one does ceremonial like the Brits. I like Charles. I like his sense of humor. I think he was ahead of his time on the environment.

But I'm an Australian and I think that Australia's head of state should be an Australian, and I think most Americans would be sympathetic to that. So, I wish Charles well. Long live the king. But in the long-term I think our head of state should be one of us.

ZAKARIA: And that is what the -- what does the politics look like? What do the polls look like in Australia? Do most Australians share your views?

FULLILOVE: Look, I think, if you express it that way, yes. But when you get into the interstices of what the model is and how we change the government, it becomes complicated. But I think when we look ahead, we have to be confident enough to have affection and fondness for Britain and for the monarchy. But ultimately know that our future depends on ourselves and that means that all offices under the Australian constitution in my opinion should be held by Australians.

ZAKARIA: Michael Fullilove, Zanny Minton Beddoes, always a pleasure to have you guys on. We will -- we will try to reconvene this global panel soon.

Next on GPS, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has spent a lot of the last year in the front line areas of Ukraine. Based on those trips he has strongly held beliefs on how this war will end.


Back with him to explain all that in a moment.


ZAKARIA: We don't often equate philosophers with bravery, but Bernard- Henri Levy breaks the mold in many ways. Since the start of the war in Ukraine he has traveled to many of the front line locations we've all heard about in the news. Places like Kharkiv, Kherson, Odessa and Bakhmut. He went to bear witness and brought a film crew to document what he saw. The result is an impressive new documentary called "Slava Ukraini," meaning "Glory to Ukraine." It is out now in select theaters. Bernard-Henri Levy, welcome. Great to have you.


ZAKARIA: I want to ask you about this issue of bravery just to begin with. Because it has always struck me as one of the -- sometimes underrated, you know, when you think about -- we often think about smarts and intelligence. But if you think of great leadership, like with Zelenskyy, bravery, courage is one of the most important things.


Do you think that is trained? Do you think it is in-born?

LEVY: It is one of the most important and one of the most forgotten. We were so surprised when Zelenskyy decided to stay. We were so surprised when the whole Ukrainian people stood at his side. It was absolutely unexpected. None of us weighted (ph) that (ph). And nevertheless it happened. Whole people reconnected with the great tradition of brave citizenship like in the beginning of America, like in Athens, in the ancient Greece, like in the French revolution. This is what happened in Ukraine. And this is one of the great events which we -- which we saw.

ZAKARIA: When you went on the front lines and you talked to these soldiers, they're up against, you know, a very formidable foe. And the Russians are hammering and they're doing things that are really -- we haven't seen since World War II, destroying whole cities, bombing, you know, the sewage plants and the water facilities and the hospitals. Are they losing their nerve? Are they losing their courage?

LEVY: I never saw that. Maybe it happens but I never saw that. I was in a lot of hot places and what I saw is quiet bravery. Not stupid bravery, which is a fake one, going to the enemy. But well mastered bravery everywhere. Losing their nerves, never. Protecting the weak, putting all of the people under shelter, going to fetch them under fire. This I saw many times and this is what I report in the documentary in many scenes.

ZAKARIA: You know that people look at the strategic situation from afar and they say, look, the Ukrainians will do -- will make some gains in this -- in this coming counter offensive. But at the end of the day, the Russians have dug in Crimea and in that core part of the Donbas that they took in 2014. So, there will have -- there will have to be some negotiation. There will have to be some settlement. What do you see?

LEVY: I don't believe that. Number one, if there is a compromise, it would be a disaster for all of us. When you do compromise with someone who decided that we are his enemy, and that he declared total war against the whole civilized world, it is a very bad thing. A compromise with Hitler, a compromise with Putin is for all of us a bad thing, number one.

Number two, I don't think it would be necessary. What I observed on the ground during these six months of footing -- footage each time the Ukrainians decided with their wise bravery to launch an offensive, they won. And sometimes, very often, the Russians did not even try to resist in Kherson, for example.

So when the Ukrainian will decide to -- that they are strong enough, equipped enough to go to Donetsk, to go to Crimea, they will. And you will be surprised how little the Russians will resist.

Number three, the only thing which is missing and which we have to do is to give the equipment and to give it strongly, quickly, and not in the incremental way which is the motto and the doctrine of too many diplomats. If we give what they need things can go quick and the war can stop and we can spare some human lives.

ZAKARIA: You are a big supporter of Emmanuel Macron in France. On this issue, do you think Macron is searching for a compromise, a solution? He still talks to Putin. Do you think he agrees with what you're saying?

LEVY: I think so. I think that Macron never searched for a compromise with Putin. He spoke with him at the beginning, not to such a compromise, to appeal to what he believed could remain in his mad brain, of Putin, of reason. He tried to probably to explain to him that he was making a horrible mistake (INAUDIBLE) but not to make a compromise. There is one point on which Macron never changed.


Putin -- Russia has to be defeated. Ukraine has to get the victory. And the victory means what Zelenskyy will say, Macron always said that. And I had the privilege, by the way, to be asked by Macron to be there in his last man-to-man meeting with Zelenskyy in Paris.

They had a meeting two or three months ago. I was if the room with Andriy Yermak, President Zelenskyy, President Macron. And I heard and I saw the position of Macron was very clear. The victory has to be yours, President Zelenskyy. And what victory means is for you to decide, not us, not diplomats, not America, not France, not Europe. It is your country. It is your combat and it is your decision. And this is the position of France.

ZAKARIA: Bernard-Henri Levy, always a pleasure talking to you.

LEVY: Thank you, Fareed. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: So go to movie theaters and watch the movie "Slava Ukraini." Next on GPS, some might say little changed yesterday for Britain's head of state after he woke up as King Charles and went to sleep as King Charles but he represents a monarchy that has changed enormously over the past century. That story when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. King Charles III has had to plan his coronation with careful diplomacy, navigating touchy personal issues like what to do with his son Harry, and his brother Andrew.

But that is nothing compared to one of his predecessors, George IV, who insisted that his own wife be denied entry to his coronation in 1821. Amongst his wife, Caroline of Brunswick's offenses were eating raw onions, flirting promiscuously, and swearing like a sailor. In fact, King George pressured the British parliament to bring an adultery case against her, hoping their marriage would be dissolved by the time he was anointed king. The plan didn't work.

Caroline with all her earthy qualities was loved by the commoners who were growing ever more discontented with the British monarchy. Added into the mix were an unlikable king and a press that took Caroline's side. She was, in many ways, Britain's first tabloid princess or queen, actually, but she didn't enjoy it for long. She died of an illness a few weeks after George IV was crowned.

So, coronations have been much crazier and messier in the past than these days. In fact, the British monarchy was tamed and transformed by a coronation, that of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. It happened because this thousand-year-old tradition was, for the first time, televised.

Ahead of the event, the BBC repurposed old military transmitters in order to expand its coverage to reach a broader public. TV sales in the country skyrocketed in anticipation. An estimated 27 million people in the U.K. tuned in which is more than half of the population at the time. The British Royal Air Force even flew bombers carrying film canisters of the event across the pond to be broadcast on American networks.

Since then television has shaped the modern British monarchy and the royal family has essentially become televised performance theater for all of us. But where the crowning of Queen Elizabeth featured a fresh faced young ingenue with endless promise, King Charles' coronation brings with it a veteran character and waning public interest.

In a recent poll in the U.K. conducted for CNN by Savanta, about half said they had little or no interest in the coronation, and only 20 percent said they were very interested in it. Young people were particularly unamused with 57 percent saying they were not too or not at all interested.

The firm, as the British monarchy is often called due to its function as a business, has taken note, opting for a slimmed down coronation and an appeal to the public mood this time around. The sacred oil used to anoint Charles as king was vegan. And as the country faces a cost of living crisis that has left a record number of British families relying on food banks, the royals decided to skip the tradition of parading gold bars in front of the king this year.

Still, the spectacle of it all, however unpalatable to some, was viewed by millions and millions around the world. As New York Magazine points out, "Most of us Americans care about the coronation of King Charles III only because we're messy ex-Brits who live for drama." And right they are. According to Nielsen ratings, roughly 11.4 million people in the United States tuned in for Queen Elizabeth's funeral in September. Two decades ago, an even more staggering number reported 33.2 million Americans watched Princess Diana's funeral.

The magic and the misery of the monarchy have played out in other ways on TV and in film to global audiences where critically acclaimed series like "The Crown" have been ratings gold. Netflix has even started production on a new biopic called "Scoop" which offers a behind the scenes look at the now infamous BBC Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew that focused on his ties to the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. And to keep things exciting, the dissident royals have ventured into the latest innovation in drama, reality TV.


The six-hour long series "Harry and Meghan" is Netflix's highest viewed documentary of all time with 28 million households streaming in just the first four days in order to find out why the couple decided to leave the royal family. Prince Harry's book "Spare" was a record- breaking success despite being criticized as a whiny out of touch memoir that unnecessarily airs the family's dirty laundry. That sentiment was immortalized on an episode of "South Park."

How the monarchy holds up under King Charles' reign is still to be seen. But we will keep watching for sure because if we've learned anything over the last 70 years it is that royal content is always king.

Thanks to all of you for being part of any program this week. I will see you next week.

Don't forget, if you miss a show, go to for a link to my iTunes podcast.