The 360: Were Harry and Meghan right to ban Britain's tabloids?

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·Royal Correspondent
·7-min read
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“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories

Britain's Prince Harry (L), Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive to attend the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London on March 5, 2020. - The Endeavour Fund helps servicemen and women have the opportunity to rediscover their self-belief and fighting spirit through physical challenges. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry and Meghan issued a letter to four UK tabloids to cut ties. (Getty Images)

What’s happening?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are starting a new life in California, having stepped back from their roles as senior royals.

And, as if to set some new house rules straight away, the pair wrote to the editors of four tabloid newspapers - the Daily Mail, The Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express - to inform them they will no longer co-operate with their publications.

They were, in essence, being banned from talking to them. Harry and Meghan say that, while they support a free press, they will no longer offer themselves up “as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion”.

Why there’s debate

As senior royals, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had some of their life funded by the UK taxpayer, through the Sovereign Grant.

Although it likely only amounted to 5% of their annual income, with much of their money coming from Prince Charles, there has previously been a feeling that the British public is owed something from those they support financially.

But Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, have fiercely protected their right to privacy, and have argued that they are unable to defend themselves against what they claim are lies printed in newspapers.

Harry has even said his wife has faced racism in the UK and that the the media portrayal of her has contained “racial undertones”.

Despite this, the timing of their announcement - coming in the middle of the worst health crisis Britain has faced in 100 years - has exposed the pair to criticism from even those most likely to support them.

What’s next?

Newspapers do not legally need permission to write stories but will usually seek comment from the subjects of articles if necessary. What Harry and Meghan’s letter means is that those tabloids now know they won’t get any comment if they try to seek one.

There are at least two potential outcomes of the Sussexes’ letter - neither of which is likely to involve a fewer number of articles being written about them.

It could give other celebrities who are fed up of how they are portrayed confidence to stop their own contact with tabloids. But it could also turn those publications - and readers of those newspapers - against the duke and duchess.

In the meantime, the next battle is set to commence in the courts on Friday, with the Duchess of Sussex Meghan suing the publishers of The Mail on Sunday over the publication of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.

Perspectives

How tone deaf is it possible to be?

Someone actually advised them to send this at a time when the world is occupied in a life and death struggle. As an exercise in hubris, self-importance and vanity, it can rarely have been equalled. While we are clapping the front-line workers in the NHS, the former royal couple are grandstanding with the beastly tabloids, prosecuting a war that most people thought was over... In sending an open letter, dripping with pomposity and phoney portentousness, they made it clear that what they really wanted was that precious commodity for the young and ambitious: publicity. And in the midst of a global pandemic, too. How tone deaf is it possible to be? - Simon Kelner, iNews.

It’s a clear generation split

I'm afraid to say it's harder to think of a more clear articulation, a split, between a generation that is 'me me, enough about me what you do think of me?' where you accidentally use the press when you want them, but get rid of them when you don't. It's becoming increasingly difficult to defend their position. - Judge Rinder, This Morning.

Now is not the time for a display of thin skin

What are they doing? In the midst of a pandemic this letter looks purely solipsistic. Now is simply not the time for a display of their very thin skins, when others are covering themselves in PPE to help the gravely sick. The court case, the grandiose letter and their exhibition of hurt has been met with predictable scorn from tabloid rottweilers. But all of it indicates that the symbiotic contract between royals and the tabloids is even more dysfunctional than ever. The Sussexes, minus their royal duties, now fall into that category of celebs around which any gossip can be spun. If they had truly wanted privacy, perhaps they wouldn’t have moved to Los Angeles, where paparazzi lie in wait too. - Suzanne Moore, The Guardian.

He brings it back to Meghan and Harry world

Why is it important to tell the world this now? Aside from the fact that it is just stating the bleeding obvious, I don’t think it takes a genius to work out that this was not the right time to make this announcement. People are dying, frontline carers are dying, and he brings it back to Meghan and Harry world. All this suggests is just how far out of the loop of his own country Harry now is. - Mark Borkowski to the Daily Beast.

Harry should know the pandemic is the real story - his father had coronavirus

They may say that they will have zero engagement with four of the largest circulation newspapers - The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and Daily Express - but that is more likely to increase scrutiny from those particular outlets than lessen it. Anyway, Harry and Meghan's dislike for tabloids is of little consequence at this time when the world is in the grip of a pandemic that is claiming tens of thousands of lives. Harry, having seen his father suffer from the virus, should be aware that the pandemic is a real story compared to the tittle tattle of his life. - Belfast Telegraph.

They’re justified, but why now?

I hope their actions will set a precedent for others who are hounded by the tabloids in the UK and I think they are justified in issuing such a statement. But why now? In a time of global crisis, when the world’s focus is on preservation of life, the statement seems poorly timed and poorly executed. It’s a shame that Harry and Meghan chose this moment to shun the tabloid press. It could have been a landmark move against the culture of harassment perpetuated by certain branches of the UK media. Hopefully, it’s not too late for their actions will mark a turning point for the “economy of click bait and distortion.” But I fear this latest statement may have done more harm than good. - Emily Garbutt, Huffington Post.

They’ve done what we hoped they would do

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have finally done what we always hoped they would, and told the British tabloids where to go. Of course, Meghan and Harry have long been held up as hate figures by certain members of the press for some time now. Strike that, actually: they haven’t. Meghan has. - Kayleigh Dray, Stylist.

Harry and Meghan have said they won’t play the game

What the tabloids want the Sussexes and the public to believe is that there is only one route to public admiration and acceptance, and that’s through them. This has been the tabloids’ modus operandi for years, but when you really think about it, it is a veiled threat. It operates on the premise that celebrities and public figures are sustained by public approval, and the price of achieving that approval is to collaborate with the tabloids. The threat is: “give us access, or else”... But that arrangement cedes overwhelming power to these organisations, because once they deem a celebrity to be insufficiently appreciative, they can easily turn the public against them. With this letter, Harry and Meghan have said “Enough! We’re not going to play that game”. - Julian Obubo, PR Week.

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