The Royal Family is speaking out about the BBC Two's new documentary The Princes and the Press.
A joint statement from Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace was shown at the end of the program, which aired on Monday, Nov. 22.
"A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy," the statement read. "However, too often it is overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources that are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility."
The BBC defended its documentary and told BBC News the series is "about how royal journalism is done and features a range of journalists from broadcast and the newspaper industry."
The two-part series examines the years in which Prince William and Prince Harry have, as the BBC put it, "charted very different courses of their relationship with the media." It's presented by BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan, who has shared his own opinions about the royal family and coverage of them in the past. In a 2012 column for The Independent, for instance, he called the monarchy "absurd" and wrote "journalists are so bamboozled by aristocratic wealth that they can only portray a confected picture to their audience. In other words, they substitute propaganda where journalism should be."
According to the BBC, Rajan conducted more than 80 hours of interviews over the course of several months with journalists who have been following the royals. In the first episode, titled "The New Generation," Rajan looks at the years following Queen Elizabeth II's 2012 Diamond Jubilee and the reaction to having a new generation of royals take center stage.
"The film charts the years leading up to and including the engagement and marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex," BBC Two's description adds. "Providing context for the princes' relationship with the media, the film examines some of the illegal activities engaged in by some newspapers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including hacking and 'blagging', and how these techniques were used to target members of the royal family and their associates."
The second episode, which is set to air Nov. 29, focuses on the period from 2018 to 2021, including the birth of Harry and Meghan Markle's son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor and the Sussexes' and Cambridges' royal tours. The description adds, "[Rajan] also looks at the circumstances surrounding the Sussexes' decision to step down from their senior royal roles, explores the legal cases brought by the couple against some newspaper groups from 2019 onwards, and considers the impact Princess Diana's experiences with the press and broadcasters had on her sons."
Harry has spoken out about the media before. In his and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, the Duke of Sussex expressed how his "biggest concern was history repeating itself," appearing to reference how his mother was hounded by the media during her lifetime and how he feared for his wife.
"And what I was seeing was history repeating itself," he said, "but more, perhaps—or definitely far more dangerous, because then you add race in and you add social media in."
At another point during the sit-down, Harry said there was an "'invisible contract' behind closed doors between the institution" and the U.K. Tabloids. "To simplify it," he said, "it's a case of if you as a family member are willing to wine, dine, and give full access to these reporters, then you will get better press."
According to the Evening Standard, a lawyer for Meghan also shot down accusations about the Duchess of Sussex's treatment of Palace employees during The Princes and the Press. Earlier this year, The Times reported Jason Knauf, Meghan and Harry's former communications secretary, sent an email in 2018 that was allegedly forwarded to HR that claimed the "Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year" and was "seeking to undermine" the confidence of another employee. An investigation was launched, and a spokesperson for Meghan denied the allegations, calling them "a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation" in a statement to The Times.
"Those stories were false," Jenny Afia from the law firm Schillings, which represents Meghan, said during the documentary, according to the Evening Standard. "This narrative that no one can work for the Duchess of Sussex, she was too difficult and demanding as a boss and everyone had to leave, it's just not true."
(This story was originally published Nov. 23 at 6:25 a.m. PST).