The National Anthem is the first episode of the first series of channel 4's Black Mirror. This was first broadcast on 4 December 2011.
Princess Susannah, Duchess of Beaumont (Lydia Wilson), a much-loved member of the Royal Family, is kidnapped. For her safe return, the Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) must have sexual intercourse with a pig on live national television, with a list of technical specifications designed to make it near-impossible to fake. Callow adamantly opposes fulfilling the demand and does all possible to catch the kidnapper before the deadline. Callow also demands that the news not reach the public, but the ransom video was posted on YouTube and has already been viewed and downloaded by many members of the British public. Although the UK media initially agrees not to report the story it soon reaches foreign news networks, forcing the UK media to follow suit. The public's response is initially one of sympathy towards Callow, and the majority do not expect him to go through with the demand.
When the video was first received Alex Cairns (Lindsay Duncan), one of the PM's aides, began faking footage to broadcast. The kidnapper discovers the ploy and sends Princess Susannah's finger to a UK news station as a response. The story is outed and public opinion turns sharply against Callow who now demand he follow through with the kidnapper's ransom. This drives Callow to order an immediate rescue operation on the building where they believe Susannah is being held. The building is revealed to be a decoy and a reporter is injured during the operation. Callow loses even more support.
After being informed that neither he nor his family will have protection from repercussions if he refuses, Callow is forced to perform the indecent act in front of a live global audience who are disgusted by the sight but remain watching. The princess is discovered unharmed in the streets, the finger having belonged to the kidnapper. She was released before the deadline, but went unnoticed as everyone was distracted by the broadcast. It emerges that the events were planned by Turner Prize winner Carlton Bloom, who intended to make an artistic point by showing that events of significance had slipped under the noses of the public and the government as they were "elsewhere, watching screens" and not paying attention to the real world. Bloom commits suicide as the broadcast airs, and it is decided that the early release will not be revealed to anyone including Callow.
A year after the broadcast, Callow's political image has remained intact and he has gained greater public approval due to his willingness to sacrifice his dignity. Princess Susannah has recovered from the kidnapping and is expecting a child, while the public at large knows of Bloom's organising of the affair. While Callow's reputation has been raised in the eyes of the public, it is implied that his relationship with his wife (Anna Wilson-Jones) has not survived the ordeal.