Why Harry and Meghan can now expect media coverage to get even worse

Will Taylor
News Reporter
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's announcement could lead to worse a worse relationship with the media than their strained existing one. (PA Images)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s attempts to change their frosty relationship with the media has been at the heart of the bombshell decision to quit as senior members of the royal family and become financially independent.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have repeatedly accused sections of the media of inaccurate and vindictive coverage, revealed details of how their interaction with journalists will change in a bid to hand more control to the couple.

They have pledged to allow more niche and grassroots outlets and younger journalists to events, instead of guaranteeing spots to national newspapers as part of the ‘royal rota’ system, which they will now leave.

But Duncan Larcombe, the Sun’s former royal editor and author of ‘Prince Harry: The Inside Story’, has warned leaving the system to pursue their own way of dealing with reporters is likely to backfire.

Prince Harry appears to be rewriting a chapter on PR and the problem is that it won’t make a jot of difference, if anything it’ll be counterproductive,” he told Yahoo News UK.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex leaving after their visit to Canada House. (PA Images)

He added: “This notion that you can cherrypick the media coverage that you get is frankly absurd and it will never work.”

The royal rota allows press from a number of outlets, such as the Times, the Sun and the Daily Mail, to exclusively cover an event provided they share words and photos with other media organisations not present.

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Mr Larcombe believes Prince Harry wants to stop the rota journalists from attending every event he goes to.

While that could restrict how he is reported on, the reduced relationship with journalists could hinder the pair.

“It’s a hell of a lot easier to be critical of someone you know you’ll never meet,” Mr Larcombe said.

He recalled how, when covering the royals as part of the rota, he was asked to meet Prince William to deal with a paparazzi problem.

Photographers had shouted “slag” at Kate Middleton when she was Prince William’s girlfriend in the hope the royal would get angry, thereby producing more sellable pictures.

Prince William was able to use the royal rota to help with a paparazzi problem when he was dating Kate Middleton. (PA Images)

The rota agreed that when pictures were sent to them of Prince William and Prince Harry with their girlfriends, they would clarify with the Buckingham Palace press office that they hadn’t been taken while the royals were being harassed or pursued.

Without that relationship, headlines about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could get worse, Mr Larcombe believes.

“It’s a bit of a retrograde step for Harry, that’s the practicalities of it, but I suspect this is more about the notion of the royal rota expecting to turn up to every event that he does,” Mr Larcombe suggested.

“It’s conceivable if Prince Harry’s photographed at an event doing something crazy, whoever takes that picture is going to spread it round.”

The royals are currently suing Associated Newspapers for what they have described as a ‘campaign of fake news information’ against the Duchess of Sussex, which includes the publication of details from a private letter without her consent.

The Mail on Sunday said it stood by the story it published and would defend the case “vigorously”.

The legal action follows increasing tensions with the press that previously came to a head when Prince Harry released a statement in November 2016 which condemned the “smear on the front page of a national newspaper” and “the racial undertones of comment pieces” before asking the press to “pause and reflect before any further damage is done”.