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Journalists should not need the royal seal of approval if reporting on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

9 January 2020

NUJ members have voiced concern over the decision of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex not to participate in the royal rota for reporters and instead to “provide access to credible media outlets”.

The royal couple have launched a website which sets out their policy of dealing with the press. It says: “Britain’s Royal Correspondents are regarded internationally as credible sources of both the work of members of The Royal Family as well as of their private lives. This misconception propels coverage that is often carried by other outlets around the world, amplifying frequent misreporting. Regrettably, stories that may have been filed accurately by Royal Correspondents are, also, often edited or rewritten by media editorial teams to present false impressions.”

It says their new approach to the media aims to:

  • Engage with grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists;
  • Invite specialist media to specific events/engagements to give greater access to their cause-driven activities, widening the spectrum of news coverage;
  • Provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events;
  • Continue to share information directly to the wider public via their official communications channels;
  • No longer participate in the Royal Rota system.

The union sees this, together with Downing Street’s new policy on lobby briefings, as another instance of an attempt to “prevent the media from functioning and compromising the ability of journalists to do their jobs, which is completely unacceptable”.  

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The NUJ regrets that Downing Street appears to be refusing to meet the group representing lobby journalists who are concerned about the change to briefing arrangements which will now take place in Downing Street rather than Parliament. This needs to be sorted out so that political journalists can do their jobs effectively.

“The union is also hearing from members who are concerned about the intention of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to no longer participate in the royal rota system for reporters. Both instances appear to attempt to prevent the media from functioning and compromising the ability of journalists to do their jobs, which is completely unacceptable. Will it mean that local newspapers will be excluded from royal visits? Who determines which media is ‘credible’ or ‘objective’? The rota system is not perfect, but it does allow UK media to cover the British Royal Family – an institution maintained by the public purse. We cannot have a situation where journalists writing about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can only do so if they have the royal seal of approval.

 “We reject sweeping criticism of journalists and media organisations by the Duke and Duchess, who simultaneously claim to respect the role of the media. Any so called reforms must enhance access and improve transparency rather than allowing access to public figures, regardless of who they are, on a grace and favour basis.”

NUJ says government must meet lobby to reconsider changes to briefings which could hamper press freedom

Tags: , lobby, media freedom, duke of sussex, duchess of sussex, royal reporters, royal rota, royal correspondents, downing street, political correspondents, lobby journalists