The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix documentary is highly critical of the British media, but the program sends millions of readers to the same news outlets they criticize in the film.
Many of the newspapers that have sued the royal couple for making a Netflix documentary about themselves also report wall-to-wall on the contents of the same documentary.
Within two hours of the first episodes’ release, the top 12 stories on MailOnline were all about the pair, complete with photos, gifs, and screengrabs. The Sun published seven stories about the couple within the first two hours.
Articles about the couple drive huge clicks to news websites, making them a top topic for sites that rely on online advertising to make money, covering every angle. This interest leads to stiff competition to be the news channel with the top Google search result for terms like “Meghan Markle” or “Prince Harry.”
The documentary was released at midnight in California – where both Netflix and the couple are based – but this means it came out at 8am in the UK, the perfect time for UK news outlets to cover a full day’s coverage . The Guardian also ran a live blog summarizing the claims the couple made on the programme.
Piers Morgan, who lost his job on ITV’s Good Morning Britain after refusing to apologize for comments about Meghan, has never let his fixation fall. Despite his outrage at the couple’s decision to make the documentary, he has no intention of ignoring it. His team has already announced that he will devote the entire hour of his TalkTV program to the show. The Duchess of Sussex’s stepbrother and former royal butler Paul Burrell have been booked to appear alongside him.
TalkTV pledged anger, pointing out that his “fiery opinions” have previously caused him to “go off the air dramatically”. “So there’s no doubt there will be fireworks as Britain’s most outspoken broadcaster gives its uncensored take on the royal couple and their fly-on-the-wall series.”
In the series, Prince Harry says that the criticism in the media can be overwhelming. He claimed the wider royal family felt criticism of Markle – after her relationship with the prince was made public – was “like a rite of passage”. He suggested that the royal family failed to consider the “race element” in its coverage of his new girlfriend.
He also explicitly rejected the royal family’s traditional way of dealing with royal correspondents at British newspapers and broadcasters: are tabloids. It all comes down to control, it’s like, ‘This family is ours to exploit. Their trauma is our story, and our story, and our story to master.’”
For the first time, there is also insight into how many Brits have watched the program, after the independent viewing figures organization Barb started releasing viewing figures of individual Netflix programs last month.
Despite scrutinizing the editing techniques used in the program – such as using stock photos from photographers from other events to illustrate sections where the pair talk about the media – there’s no easy way for British television viewers to complain.
UK viewers have the option of making complaints to the media regulator, Ofcom, if they feel that a program on a traditional broadcaster such as the BBC or ITV is substantially misleading. But streaming services operating in the UK, such as Netflix, are not subject to the same strict rules. Instead, as Ofcom has clarified in response to a number of complaints, Netflix is under the supervision of the Dutch media regulator.
Even under the Ofcom code, any breach involving the use of stock photos or footage for illustrative purposes would have to be considered a “material misreading” to be regarded as a breach of the broadcasting rules. There is a relatively high bar for breaches of accuracy in non-news programs and it would have to be proven that a program “materially misleads the public to cause harm or offense”.