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ACM Home arrow Prince Charles arrow Prince Charles: a study in media ethics

Prince Charles: a study in media ethics Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Readers of the British and Australian press will recall that  Prince Charles  had been savaged not only by the media, but particularly by a politician, a Minister of the Crown, one Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, who chose to break the convention that Her Majesty’s Ministers just do not do this.

This was all about a private memo, written by the Prince. Although privacy is now seen as a fundamental human right, guaranteed in the UK by the legislation, a convention has been established by the London press and some of the politicians.

This media imposed convention is that the right to privacy applies to everyone, even the most humble, but with one exception. That exception is the Prince of Wales, and in addition any other member of the Royal Family. Everyone else, even journalists are protected.

 In any event, a private memo from the Prince was produced last week with a flourish at an employment tribunal by lawyers for one Elaine Day, a former PA at Clarence House. Written in his hand was the comment:

"What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?"

 He blamed the child-centred education system, which he wrote admits no failure. According to the London newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, the memo was not for Miss Day, but was read by her and taken from the correspondence tray of a Clarence House official, She interpreted the memorandum to mean that people should not get above their station.

Note that Prince Charles never said that. This was the meaning Miss Day chose to put on the document she stole . As with anything to do with the Prince of Wales , the Australian media rushed to play up the interpretation Ms Day chose to put to support her claim for a generous sum of money over an employment dispute .

 But the media ignored or downplayed the Prince’s response. As they did the interpretation by MPs and commentators on Mr Clarke’s intervention. This was that it was nothing more than a clear leadership bid by the Education Secretary and, according to the Telegraph, a crude pitch for his party's republican block vote. The Australian media also ignored, or possibly, although I did not see examples,downplayed his backdown. The Telegraph headline on 22 November 2004 caught this elegantly: "CLARKE BEATS RETREAT AS 'OUT OF DATE' PRINCE PUTS HIS CASE."

 Then the Prince replied, but I cannot find this in our press, nor did I see it on TV or hear it on the radio. So here it is, from The Daily Telegraph(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/11/21/nprin21.xml

" I might just add that the idea that I think that people should not try to rise above their station is a travesty of the truth, nor indeed have I ever used any such words or anything like them. For the last 30 years I have done all I can to give young people who have limited opportunities, usually through no fault of their own, a chance to succeed. This is what my Prince's Trust is all about. We have helped more than 500,000 young people to fulfil their potential. I happen to believe passionately that everyone has a particular God-given ability. Often all that is needed is the right help at the right time for them to make the most of it. Those we support have often overcome enormous challenges, such as long-term unemployment, failing at school, illness and addiction, and criminal records, and have gone on to succeed in education, get secure long-term jobs, and own their own businesses, or whatever Each and every one of them is a success and my pride in them is boundless. What these young people have in common is not just a natural talent, but the determination to succeed through hard work. And that is the combination that breaks down the barriers to success. But success can come in many forms. In my view it is just as great an achievement to be a plumber or a bricklayer as it is to be a lawyer or a doctor. Not everyone has the same talents or abilities, but everyone, with the right nurturing, can make a real difference to their communities and to the country. This is why I am so encouraged by the efforts which are now being made to recognise vocational skills in our education system and in the wider economy. I know that my ideas are sometimes portrayed as old-fashioned. Well, they may be. But what I am concerned about are the things that are timeless, regardless of the age that we live in. Also I have been around long enough to see what were at the time thought of as old-fashioned ideas now come into vogue. Ambition is a good thing and should never be constrained by a persons starting point in life and people must be encouraged to fulfil their aspirations in ways that recognise their different abilities and talents. Thank God they do and that we are not all the same"

This  tells a completely different story, does it not?. But the Australian media did not balance their original damaging report, did they? The media should get over campaigning for a republic. The worst was and is the campaign to publish anything which damages Prince Charles.

Another example of the campaigning media was the fifth anniversary of the referendum. The ABC news decided that the entirely predictable call of the ARM for the issue to be back on the agenda was newsworthy. So it became a major story on the news. A major story? It was a non- story. Everyone knows that the Prime Minister believes the issue was settled in 1999, and without his support nothing is going to happen. Mr Howard is Prime Minister for the foreseeable future.

At some point of course he will leave the office. Republicans think this will be their moment, their 1789. Think again, citoyens! Only a Liberal leader with rocks in his head would revive this issue, at least while his position is unassailable.

 Never be surprised what some politicians in a panic about his position might do. But while he or she, is unassailable, they would know that the Liberal rank and file, the majority of Liberal voters and the National Party and its supporters are all opposed to change. The issue would be extremely divisive.

 The Liberal republicans walked into trap laid by Paul Keating once - they surely would not do it again. And a conservative republican Liberal leader would not want a plebiscite process which led to a direct election model. Conservative republicans fear that result would derail effective government.

The likelihood of this eventually dawned on Liberal Senator Marise Payne. So she changed her mind, putting in a semi dissent to the Senate Committee report. This report was furtively tabled on the last day of the sittings before the 2004 election. She is now half in favour and half against her very own ARM proposal. Senator, they saw you coming when you joined that committee!.

 If the ARM would welcome a new Liberal leader, they are ecstatic about a Labor Prime Minister. But the likelihood is that the penny will eventually drop with the Labor Party. The ALP will eventually realize that they must go to the people with a programme which reflects the wishes of their essentially conservative supporters. To them, elite issues such as the republic, indicate one thing . This is that their leaders are out of touch.

Tony Blair worked out this conundrum. The result? He has been the most successful leader in the history of the British Labour Party. And by the way, he is a constitutional monarchist. As were all the great leaders of the Australian Labor Party. Labor leaders should just check with their rank and file.

Former Labor government minister, Peter Walsh made this very point in his recent Quadrant dinner address, an edited version of which appeared in The Australian of 2 December, 2004. He recounted a story of a Labor social gathering after the 1999 referendum where he was accosted by a state MP who said she had heard he had voted No. Surely it could not be true. He said it was, adding he was in pretty good company because of the high No vote in strong Labor voting booths.

" Yes , "she replied , "but you know better."

 You know better! That sort of reaction , he says, was common among elites in both the Labor and Liberal Parties. They were shocked that the people in every state and by a 55:45 per cent margin had rejected what the elites knew to be good for them. He brought the house down with this comment

" Bad losers as usual, they demanded a referendum every year or two until the people got it right."

But back to the Australian media, particularly the elite end. They still want to bat for a republic, any republic, and are quite prepared to sacrifice their ethical codes to achieve this. If any other institution in Australia behaved so unethically, so disgracefully, they would be called to task- particularly by the media! Well, one Australian noticed this, and sent a letter to the Sunday Telegraph. The newspaper, commendably, published this on 28 November, 2004:

"Sir,

It is a sad day when the British media put forward controversial images of Prince Charles and do not take the time to report on the wonderful, fulfilling and helpful work he has done with The Princes Trust and his many other charities. Through his work, he has helped many thousands of young people to believe in themselves and to aspire to better themselves, even to greatness. There are many examples of his very successful work. ‘Is Prince Charles’ former staff member going to be prosecuted for stealing, then revealing the contents of personal communications within his own offices? After all, she signed a confidentiality undertaking. She should be prosecuted or the law is an ass!

Yours Sincerely,

 Keith Stuart Bales,

Birba Lake, WA "

Congratulations to Mr Bales for so succinctly pointing out the facts.

And could the .paparazzi stop inventing stories about Prince Harry. They are using the technique refined by Kitty Kelley, who writes so called accounts of the lives of well known people, Ronald Reagan, the Royal Family, the Bush family etc. Her technique is simple. This is to publish any rumour or allegation, the more scandalous the better.Do not subject them to an assessment as to whether they are true. Imagine if our courts worked that way! The stories about Prince Harry usually have so many holes in them, no reputable newspaper would publish them. Just as no reputable publisher would publish Kitty Kelley. It is just that a number of newspapers and some publishers were once reputable, but they no longer are. I suppose that is a sign of the times

 
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