When Prince William and his wife Kate emerge from hospital cradling Britain’s new royal baby for the cameras, the picture will be on the front of newspapers worldwide. But don’t expect many photographs after that.
The second in line to the throne and his wife have fought hard for the right to bring up their family in private, despite being one of the most famous couples in the world.
Their first child, Prince George, is approaching his second birthday but has only appeared in public a few times — outside the hospital when he was born in 2013, at his christening and on a tour of Australia and New Zealand last year.
The media are generally prepared to accept such scarce appearances by George and the new baby, expected this month.
“People have quite an outdated view of the British royal press pack,” said Richard Palmer, royal correspondent for Britain’s Daily Express newspaper.
“I think they still think we’re hiding in hedgerows and doing things that people did 25 years ago.
“But the reality is the British press is pretty respectful to the royal family at the moment — some might say it’s a bit cowed.”
“Readers don’t want you to go too far,” added Simon Perry, chief foreign correspondent of US celebrity magazine People.
“I don’t think there is an appetite for people to be pursued or intruded upon in an excessive way.”
– William ‘blames press’ over Diana –
The death of William’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales, was a turning point in the royal family’s relationship with the media.
She was being followed by paparazzi photographers when her car, driven by a chauffeur who had been drinking, crashed in Paris in 1997.
William “thinks the press were to blame” for Diana’s death, said Judy Wade, Hello! magazine’s royal correspondent.
Kate is also suspicious of the media after incidents including the publication by a French magazine of paparazzi photographs of her topless on holiday in 2012, Wade added.
Although Britain has no overarching privacy law, newspapers now hardly ever publish paparazzi photographs of William, Kate or George, even though they are periodically published by magazines elsewhere and circulate on Twitter and Facebook.
Palmer said newspapers are very conscious of how their readers will view stories about them, asking: “Are the readers going to think: ‘Oh my god, they’re doing the same thing to this couple as they did to Diana’?”
Royal officials also take a hard line — when a photographer was suspected of following Prince George and his nanny in London parks last year, lawyers swiftly sent a warning letter.
But Wade said that paparazzi shots were still published elsewhere in the world.
“If somebody gets a set of paparazzi pictures, they will sell in Europe, America but not here,” Wade said. “A lot of people, especially photographers, can’t make any money out of it any more.”
– Phone-hacking scandal –
Another factor in changing the style of coverage has been the outcry over British newspapers hacking the voicemails of celebrities, which led to some reporters being jailed.
The News of the World tabloid, closed by owner Rupert Murdoch in 2011, hacked phones belonging to Kate, William and his brother Prince Harry over 200 times.
This led to stories including one revealing that William’s nickname for his wife was “babykins”.
It looks like most coverage of the second royal baby will be much like that for the first — respectful, even deferential, with a focus on the feelgood factor.
But Palmer warned that, despite William and Kate’s desire for privacy, the royals in general need media coverage to guarantee their survival.
“Clearly without the oxygen of publicity, the royal family would wither and die,” he said.
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