The British Royal Family has come out swinging, accusing the BBC of giving credibility to “overblown and unfounded claims” in a new documentary that puts the spotlight on the relationship between the media and the younger generation of Windsors.
The Princes and the Press, the first part of which aired on U.K. television Monday night, examines how the media has treated the younger royal couples — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William, Kate Middleton) and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry, Meghan Markle) — and the disparities in press coverage between the two.
The three royal households — Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House — have called the two-part series “disappointing” and have criticized the BBC for lending “credibility” to the idea that other members of the royal household leaked damaging information about the Sussexes to the press over the years.
“A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy. However, too often it is overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources that are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility,” read the statement, which was broadcast at the end program’s airing on Monday.
The BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan spent months putting together interviews for the documentary, which included speaking with journalists and private investigators who found themselves becoming part of the royal narrative.
His documentary offers a behind-the-scenes peek at some of the unseemly — and in some cases, disturbing — inner workings that have been kept hidden from the public. For instance, Gavin Burrows, a private investigator hired by the now-defunct News of the World, describes how he worked “ruthlessly” to access the medical records of one of Prince Harry’s former girlfriends, in an effort to determine whether she’d ever had an STI or abortion.
“I basically was part of a group of people that robbed (Harry) of his normal teenage years,” he tells the camera.
Many of the journalists interviewed claim there is an “unspoken deal” between the royals and press, and that the family gives access to news outlets that promise favourable coverage.
“The Windsor deal is the royals get to live in a palace, they get some taxpayer funding, in return as long as they grant access and a steady supply of stories and pictures, they get favourable coverage and that helps them to renew their emotional contract with the people,” Rajan tells the audience. “But that deal only works if both parties stick to their side of the bargain. And the question is: ‘Would the children of Princess Diana want to play that game?’”