Harry and Meghan aim to control media image
The Daily Mirror said in an editorial that the couple’s failure to tell Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II about their plans “shows shocking disregard for a woman whose entire life has been ruled by a sense of public duty and honour.” The Times of London accused Harry of “petulance and hot-headedness,” while the Daily Mail said the couple wanted “the status of being ‘senior’ royals but the privacy and freedom of being private citizens.”
The Sun and the New York Post both described the departure as “Megxit,” a play on Brexit, Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.
The 93-year-old monarch moved Thursday to take control of the situation. Britain’s national news agency, Press Association, reported that the queen had ordered officials representing the monarch, Charles, Prince William, and Harry and Meghan to meet and find “workable solutions” within “days not weeks.”
Harry and Meghan’s shock announcement drew comparisons to the abdication of the queen’s uncle King Edward VIII, who gave up the throne in 1936 so he could marry divorced American Wallis Simpson. Once again, waspish commentators noted, an American woman has caused a ruction in the British royal family.
But the relationship between royals and the media has changed dramatically in the intervening decades. Before the abdication, the romance between Edward and Simpson was headline news in the United States but went largely unreported by a deferential British press.
The trauma of World War II and the social revolution of the 1960’s demolished that tradition of deference to royalty. For decades, the U.K. media has proclaimed its reverence for the queen while treating the travails of her family as fair game, from the divorces of three of her four children to second son Prince Andrew’s troubling friendship with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
After Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, the media charted every twist in the marriage: the births of sons William and Harry, Diana’s glamour and charity work, the slow public crumbling of the relationship.
Charles and Diana both used the media as a weapon as their marriage foundered, giving TV interviews to present themselves in a sympathetic light. But Diana — a global megastar, followed by paparazzi wherever she went — was never fully in control of the media attention. She was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by photographers.
Diana’s death provoked a crisis for the monarchy — which was portrayed as remote and cold at a time of national grief — and for the media, accused of hounding a vulnerable woman.
In the wake of Diana’s death, the palace and the press reached an uneasy truce. The British media left young William and Harry alone in exchange for carefully staged interviews and photo opportunities as they grew up. That practice has continued with the three young children of William and his wife Kate.
Harry, however, still blames the media for his mother’s death, and since meeting his wife — the former actress Meghan Markle — he has become less willing to play the game.
In 2017, the prince accused the media of directing “a wave of abuse and harassment” at the biracial Markle, including “racial undertones” in articles. Last year the couple launched a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday newspaper over its publication of a letter written by Meghan. Harry said he feared “history repeating itself. … I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Yet using the media has been a key part of Harry and Meghan’s strategy, just as it was for Diana. When they wanted to make their unhappiness public, the couple gave an interview to a sympathetic journalist from broadcaster ITV.
In that interview, Meghan said that “very naively,” she had been unprepared for the intense media scrutiny she would receive once she married into the British royal family.
“I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair,” she said.
Harry and Meghan now want to use the media on their own terms, dropping out of the “royal rota,” a pool system that organizes media coverage of the royal family’s public events. On a newly launched website, they said the system hampered their ability to “personally share moments in their lives directly with members of the public” via social media.
They said in the future they would “engage with grassroots media organizations and young, up-and-coming journalists.” They also slammed the “misconception” that the British media’s royal correspondents were “credible sources” of information.
Freddy Mayhew, editor of the Press Gazette, a newspaper industry trade publication, said the royal couple was aiming for a “much more controlled, much more private” approach to the media, drawing on Meghan’s experience as a U.S. television star.
“I think they are perhaps seizing an opportunity with the decline of print media to break away,” he said. “That’s something they couldn’t have done before, when papers were at their full strength. But now that a lot of it is moving online, there’s the ability for people like Harry and Meghan to take control of what they put out there.”
Harry, 35, is Elizabeth’s grandson and sixth in line to the British throne, behind his father, brother and his brother’s three children. With his ginger hair and beard, he is one of the royal family’s most recognizable and popular members and has spent his entire life in the public eye.
Before marrying the prince in a wedding watched around the world in 2018, the 38-year-old Meghan was a star of the TV legal drama “Suits.” The couple’s son Archie was born in May 2019.
Less than two years after that fairy tale wedding, the couple was enmeshed in an uproar that began Wednesday with a statement from Buckingham Palace, described as “a personal message from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.” It said Harry and Meghan intend to become financially independent and to “balance” their time between the U.K. and North America.
In a subsequent statement just 90 minutes later, though, a difference of opinion was laid bare. The palace said many issues still had to be worked out before the couple’s plan could be realized and discussions with the couple “were at an early stage.”
That communique suggested that Harry and Meghan’s statement had caught the royal household by surprise.
“We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through,” it read.
The announcement left a slew of questions: Where exactly do Meghan and Harry plan to live, and how will they earn private income without tarnishing the royal image? At the moment, they are largely funded by Harry’s father, Prince Charles, through income from his vast Duchy of Cornwall estate.
The move dominated the news in Britain, and divided opinion. Some blamed Meghan for the troubles. A social media storm compared her to Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatles singer John Lennon, who was blamed for the breakup of the famous band.
Madame Tussauds, the famed London waxwork attraction, moved the couple out of the royal section, where they had previously stood next to the monarch and Prince Philip.
Others offered sympathy for the queen, who remains a revered figure.
“We don’t mind them having an ordinary life. What we don’t like is the queen not being informed about nothing,” said royal super-fan John Loughrey, adding that the British public did not want to see the royal couple “isolated” abroad.
“It is a crisis,” he said. “We have got a crisis here. Seriously.”
Gregory Katz contributed to this report.
Jill Lawless And Danica Kirka,
Vatican singles out bishops in urging reflective not reactive social media use
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Monday urged the Catholic faithful, and especially bishops, to be “reflective, not reactive” on social media, issuing guidelines to try to tame the toxicity on Catholic Twitter and other social media platforms and encourage users to instead be “loving neighbors.”
The Vatican’s communications office issued a “pastoral reflection” to respond to questions it has fielded for years about a more responsible, Christian use of social media and the risks online that accompany the rise of fake news and artificial intelligence.
For decades the Holy See has offered such thoughts on different aspects of communications technologies, welcoming the chances for encounter they offer but warning of the pitfalls. Pope Francis of late has warned repeatedly about the risk of young people being so attached to their cell phones that they stop face-to-face friendships.
The new document highlights the divisions that can be sown on social media, and the risk of users remaining in their “silos” of like-minded thinkers and rejecting those who hold different opinions. Such tendencies can result in exchanges that “can cause misunderstanding, exacerbate division, incite conflict, and deepen prejudices,” the document said.
It warned that such problematic exchanges are particularly worrisome “when it comes from church leadership: bishops, pastors, and prominent lay leaders. These not only cause division in the community but also give permission and legitimacy for others likewise to promote similar type of communication,” the message said.
The message could be directed at the English-speaking Catholic Twittersphere, where some prominent Catholic figures, including bishops, frequently engage in heated debates or polemical arguments that criticize Francis and his teachings.
The prefect of the communications office, Paolo Ruffini, said it wasn’t for him to rein in divisive bishops and it was up to their own discernment. But he said the general message is one of not feeding the trolls or taking on “behavior that divides rather than unites.”
Russia says U.S. Senator should say if Ukraine took his words out of context
MOSCOW, May 29 (Reuters) – Russia on Monday said U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham should say publicly if he believes his words were taken out of context by a Ukrainian state video edit of his comments about the war that provoked widespread condemnation in Moscow.
In an edited video released by the Ukrainian president’s office of Graham’s meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Friday, Graham was shown saying “the Russians are dying” and then saying U.S. support was the “best money we’ve ever spent”.
After Russia criticised the remarks, Ukraine released a full video of the meeting on Sunday which showed the two remarks were not directly linked.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Western media had sought to shield the senator from criticism and said that Graham should publicly state if he feels his words were taken out of context by the initial Ukrainian video edit.
“If U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham considers his words were taken out of context by the Ukrainian regime and he doesn’t actually think in the way presented then he can make a statement on video with his phone,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a video posted on Telegram.
“Only then will we know: does he think the way that was said or was it a performance by the Kyiv regime?”
Graham’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The initial video of Graham’s remarks triggered criticism from across Moscow, including from the Kremlin, Putin’s powerful Security Council and from the foreign ministry.
Graham said he had simply praised the spirit of Ukrainians in resisting a Russian invasion with assistance provided by Washington.
Graham said he had mentioned to Zelenskiy “that Ukraine has adopted the American mantra, ‘Live Free or Die.’ It has been a good investment by the United States to help liberate Ukraine from Russian war criminals.”
Russia’s interior ministry has put Graham on a wanted list after the Investigative Committee said it was opening a criminal probe into his comments. It did not specify what crime he was suspected of.
In response, Graham said: “I will wear the arrest warrant issued by Putin’s corrupt and immoral government as a Badge of Honor.
“…I will continue to stand with and for Ukraine’s freedom until every Russian soldier is expelled from Ukrainian territory.”
A South Carolina Republican known for his hawkish foreign policy views, Graham has been an outspoken champion of increased military support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Jamie Sarkonak: Liberals bring identity quotas to Canada Media Fund
In 2021, the Liberals said they would dramatically boost funding for the Canada Media Fund. And they did — but that funding came with diversity quotas and a new emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
The Canada Media Fund is supposed to oversee a funding pool that supports the creation of Canadian media projects in the areas of drama, kids’ programming, documentaries and even video games. According to its most recent annual report, about half its revenue ($184 million) comes from the federal government through the Department of Canadian Heritage (another near-half comes from broadcasting companies through the country’s broadcasting regulator, the CRTC). The department also has the power to appoint two of the fund’s board members.
The Canada Media Fund is doing a lot more than broadly funding content creation, though. With more federal funding brought in after the past election, it is now responsible for greenlighting projects to meet identity quotas set out by the Liberals.
According to the Canada Media Fund’s contract with Canadian Heritage, which has been obtained by the National Post through a previously-completed access to information request, the number of projects funded with government-sourced dollars and led by “people of equity-deserving groups” will have to amount to 45 by 2024. The number of “realized projects” for people of these groups must amount to 25 by 2024. Finally, by 2024, a quarter of funded “key creative positions” must be held by people from designated diversity groups.
These funding quotas are similar to the CBC’s new diversity requirements for budgeting. When the CBC’s broadcasting licence was renewed by the CRTC last year, it was required to dedicate 30 per cent of its independent content production budget to diverse groups, which will rise to 35 per cent in 2026. While the CRTC is arm’s-length from government, a Liberal-appointed CRTC commissioner appeared eager to impose quotas that were on par with the governing party’s agenda on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
The government’s agreement with the Canada Media Fund also sets aside $20 million of the new money explicitly for people considered diverse enough to check a box — anyone from “sovereignty-seeking” and “equity-seeking” groups.
“’Sovereignty- and Equity-Seeking Community’ refers to the individuals who identify as women, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Racialized, 2SLGBTQ+, Persons with disabilities/Disabled Persons, Regional, and Official Language Minority Community,” reads the Canada Media Fund’s explainer on who gets diversity status.
Aside from getting mandatory coverage through the use of quotas, the groups listed above are shielded with “narrative positioning” policies that took effect this year. If the main character, key storyline, or subject matter has anything to do with the above groups, creators must either be from that group or take “comprehensive measures that have and will be undertaken to create the content responsibly, thoughtfully and without harm.” These can include consultations, sharing of ownership rights, and hiring policies from the community. While narrative requirements weren’t mandated by the Liberals in their grant to the fund, they complement the overall DEI strategy.
Storytellers vying for certain grants have to sign an attestation form agreeing with the narrative policy and write a compliance plan if their works have anything to do with the above groups. Plainly, it’s a force of narrative control.
This doesn’t go both ways; women can make documentaries about men consult-free, non-white people can make TV dramas about white people consult-free, and so on.
Statistically, diversity is being tracked on a internal system that logs the identities of key staff and leadership on every Canada Media Fund project. The diversity repository was rolled out this year. Internal documents indicate these stats will be used to monitor program progress and adjust policy going forward.
These changes are all directly linked to a Liberal platform point on media modernization. In the 2021 Liberal platform, the party committed to doubling the government’s contribution to the fund. Since then, the Liberal platform has been cited directly in internal documents outlining the Canada Media Fund’s three-year growth strategy (which explains how the new money will be used, in part, to ramp up DEI efforts).
Together, it looks like both the fund, and the party responsible for doubling its taxpayer support are more concerned about the identities of filmmakers and TV producers than the actual media being produced.
Creators should be able to tell stories about others without the narrative department’s oversight — the more narrative control, the more it starts to sound like propaganda. Good creators wanting to tell an authentic story should conduct research and be respectful of the people they cover — but they shouldn’t be bound to consultations and ownership agreements.
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