Norway’s royal family has launched a major complaint against one of the country’s biggest magazines that’s best known for its coverage of celebrities and the royals themselves. A palace spokeswoman announced that members of the royal family have had enough of what they consider to be unwarranted intrusion into what’s left of their private lives.
“The royal family shares most of its life with the Norwegian people,” Marianne Hagen, communications chief at the Royal Palace, wrote on the palace’s official website over the weekend. “There is therefore a special need for the rest of their lives to remain private.”
A January issue of the popular magazine Se og Hør (See and Hear), which included a 14-page spread of photos taken of Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and their children during a Christmas holiday trip to St Barts in the Caribbean, seems to have been the proverbial last straw for the royals. In a blistering complaint published on the official website for the royal family, the magazine was accused of being invasive and inaccurate, along with giving readers the allegedly wrong impression that Se og Hør has obtained “exclusive” interviews with the royals or access to their homes in other articles. “Se og Hør publishes interviews given to other media as their own and calls it exclusive,” claimed Hagen.
The January spread reported that the crown prince’s family had spent around NOK 500,000 (nearly USD 100,000) on their Caribbean holiday, including the rental of a private villa and a boat. “The magazine shows pictures of a house and a boat that the crown couple reportedly had rented,” Hagen wrote. “Both (claims) are incorrect. The crown couple isn’t familiar with the house (in the photo) and has not rented any boat.”
Newspaper VG reported on Saturday that palace officials demanded corrections after the Caribbean spread was published. The magazine did publish a correction, admitting they’d run a photo of the wrong house, but the royal family wasn’t satisfied, claiming the correction still left readers with the wrong impression.
Hagen told VG that such allegedly erroneous reports have major consequences for royal family members. “We have seen letters to the editor from people who are angry, based on this incorrect information,” Hagen said.
Not the first time
The complaint published on the royal family’s website also points to a lengthy spread in Se og Hør last summer featuring many photos of royal family members when they were on holiday in Corsica. The royals were pictured over 32 pages in swimsuits, sunbathing and engaging in various activities in the water.
“What we’re reacting to is the extensiveness of the coverage, the intimacy, that they’ve used photos of the children and that they haven’t made their presence known,” Hagen said. VG reported that the “paparazzi photos” were taken during a private family holiday and that the royals weren’t aware they were being photographed.
Editor fires back
The new editor-in-chief of Se og Hør, Ellen Arnstad, has already fired back at the complaint from the Royal Palace, arguing that the royals are Norway’s most “public family” and that they were photographed in “public places,” on the beaches of Corsica and St Barts. “In Norway we have a long tradition that we don’t need their approval to take photos when they are in public places, either in Norway or abroad,” Arnstad told VG. She added that as far back as 2002, Se og Hør won support from Norway’s press complaints commission (PFU) for publishing photos of football star Ole Gunnar Solskjær when he and his family were on holiday in Italy.
Arnstad also stressed that the photos were within the bounds of good character, “nice pictures of the royal children sharing activities with their parents and/or grandparents.” She claims her magazine “clearly corrected” the photo of the wrong villa in the Caribbean spread, but she and her staff stand by their account of what the St Barts holiday cost. “The royal family’s use of money is of great public interest,” she claimed. She confirmed she had rejected a proposal by the Royal Palace to name a third-party to judge what was right or wrong with Se og Hør’s article, claiming that would have violated the magazine’s own publishing responsibility.
Arnstad also stressed that royal interviews published in foreign media can be used in Norwegian media and that her magazine correctly obtained rights to re-publish them. She also denied that the magazine invaded the family’s privacy by publishing photos from a hunting holiday in Sikkilsdalen in 2011, even though that story and its offending photographs were printed before she took over.
Conflict over control
It’s the second time in recent months that members of the royal family have publicly complained about media coverage, which they actively try to control especially in regards to the children of Crown Prince Haakon and his sister, Princess Martha Louise. Some Norwegian media appear to subsequently have lost interest in the royals or have stopped covering activities like official visits and public appearances, because of strict terms set by the palace.
The conflict that erupted between the Royal Palace and Se og Hør over the weekend is nonetheless unusual in its harshness, and may be far from over. Hagen, the royal spokesperson, claimed the palace “isn’t afraid of or opposed to” critical coverage of the royal family. “We’re reacting to the presentation of private details to a degree that goes far behind the point of news,” she said. Arnstad replied that the palace is welcome to file a formal complaint with the press complaints commission.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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