Harry and Meghan's war with tabloids 'like an episode of The Crown for media law junkies' - Sunderland media law lecturer's take on the Sussexes

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s war with the tabloids is like ‘an episode of The Crown for media law junkies,’ says media law expert, Carole Watson.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 2:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 4:02 pm
Carole Watson, senior lecturer in media law at the University of Sunderland.
Photo: University of Sunderland/2tone Creative Photography
Carole Watson, senior lecturer in media law at the University of Sunderland. Photo: University of Sunderland/2tone Creative Photography

The former national newspaper journalist and senior law lecturer in media law at the University of Sunderland, has discussed ‘the Sussexes’ saga’ and how she believes it could set new ground for media law.

The Royal Sussexes have not been shy from media law in recent years. One example is a battle for copyright, privacy and data protection over a letter Meghan Markle wrote to her estranged father Thomas. She claimed that the Mail on Sunday illegally published it.

Carole Watson said: “It’ll be an interesting case, if not settled behind closed doors, over whether the media can intrude into the privacy of the Royal Family because they are public figures or not.”

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Another example is legal warnings over paparazzi photos which were taken of Meghan and her baby Archie in a public park in Canada. She raised issues of harassment and intrusion into their privacy over this.

Carole added: “Whatever the outcomes of these cases, they will set legal precedents in future for other high-profile figures who often want to have their cake and eat it. With positive coverage of engagements and visits to charities comes scrutiny over £2 million public money spent on doing up a cottage and climate-busting transatlantic travel.”

Students in the university’s media law modules are already taught these legal and ethical issues but Carole has suggested a whole module in the Royals and media law saying “I can’t imagine we will run out of examples.”

The senior lecturer continued: “If you think Harry and Meghan are ground-breaking for splitting from the Royal Family and moving stateside, they’re also making history when it comes to a love-hate relationship with the British press.

“They just love Vogue and Oprah Winfrey, but spitting blood with everyone else, even the traditionally-gushing royal correspondents.

“When I was a journalist on the Daily Mirror and at Grazia magazine, the usual Royal reaction to any negative or intrusive coverage was: ‘Never complain, never explain.’

“There were odd occasions when the Royals have had run-ins with the tabloids – the Queen, for example, has sued twice for copyright, over her Christmas Day speech and an image of the Duchess of York and Beatrice. But usually any complaints are dealt with quietly and discreetly.

“So the idea of Meghan appearing at the High Court in London suing a Sunday newspaper for publishing a private letter is unfathomable. It’ll be like fast-forwarding to a sensationalist future episode of The Crown for media law junkies. What will she wear? What will she say?

“It seems the Sussexes need a full time team of lawyers right now – it’s a shame Meghan didn’t learn the basics of law while appearing as an attorney in Suits and save herself a few thousand pounds.”