Prince Harry’s latest attack on the UK media has seen him claim a move from “fact-based news into opinion-based gossip” has had “devastating consequences” for the country.
He also urged “honest journalists” to hold their colleagues, who he dubbed as “pirates with the press cards”, to account.
Harry told Wired’s Re:Wired summit that the issues around misinformation pre-dated social media.
“I learned from a very early age that the incentives of publishing are not necessarily aligned with the incentives of truth,” he said.
He added that the UK press “sadly conflate profit with purpose and news with entertainment and they don’t report the news, they create it, and they’ve successfully turned fact-based news into opinion-based gossip with devastating consequences for the country”.
Harry invoked the memory of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales and said his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, was receiving similar treatment.
“I lost my mother to this self-manufactured rabidness and obviously I’m determined not to lose the mother to my children to the same thing,” he said.
Of comments he previously made that “they won’t stop until she’s dead”, in reference to Meghan, he added: “It was more of a warning, not a challenge.”
Harry said “the scale of misinformation now is terrifying” but that it is not true to say it “is too big to fix, it’s too big to solve”.
Asked about “censorship” and the balance between free speech and potentially harmful content on social media, Harry said “the free speech argument is somewhat a distraction from the main problem”.
He said: “As we’ve already established, this isn’t just a social media problem, it’s a media problem.
“I’ve grown up learning that news should be sacred ground.”
Harry said it does not take Succession’s fictional media mogul Logan Roy or media magnate Rupert Murdoch to “understand that clickbait is the descendant of targeted advertising”.
He warned in many cases “the truth is paywalled but the lies are free”.
He said while a lie on social media is dangerous, “when that same lie is given credibility by journalists or publishers, it’s unethical and as far as I’m concerned an abuse of power”.
Harry questioned who was holding the media to account, claiming “it’s kind of become a bit of a digital dictatorship”.
He suggested the solution could be to invest in and support “honest journalists” who “respect and uphold the values of journalism, not the pirates with the press cards who have hijacked the most powerful industry, the freest industry in the world”.
Harry said “real journalists” have the power to “tackle racism, misogyny, lies, all of it” from “within their own system”.
He said he would like to see journalists investigate their “unethical, immoral and dishonest” colleagues.
“We can fix this, we have to fix this, but we need everyone’s help,” Harry said.
Reaction in the media to comments Prince Harry made earlier this year that the “UK press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids” resulted in the resignation of Ian Murray, the executive director of the Society of Editors, who had robustly denied there was a problem.
Harry and his wife have pursued a stream of privacy and libel complaints against UK newspapers. This week the Court of Appeal began to hear the Mail on Sunday’s appeal after Meghan’s High Court privacy win that found the publication of her letter to her father was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.
Following Prince Harry’s claim that the media was bigoted. Press Gazette launched an extensive investigation including a detailed survey filled by more than 1,000 readers. It revealed widespread concerns about racism and bigotry in the media which Press Gazette addressed in a comment piece here.
Picture: Paul Edwards/Pool via Reuters