Press is 'cynical, intrusive, unfair' - Charles

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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales used the ceremony marking the 300th anniversary of Fleet Street yesterday to criticise the media for being "too cynical and intrusive" and undermining Britain's institutions by focusing on the foibles of individuals.

He told the audience of newspaper owners and editors there was a "culture of complaining" that did not appreciate the vital contribution of the Church, the Civil Service, the police, and the armed services and subjected them to "unfair criticism and exposure to debate".

The speech, written by the Prince, and trailed by St James's Palace as "robust and controversial", was delivered at St Brides, "the journalists' church" to celebrate the tricentenary of Britain's first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant.

The Prince told 25 chairmen and chief executives of newspapers, including Rupert Murdoch and Richard Desmond, that the Press had been "awkward, cantankerous, cynical, bloody-minded, at times intrusive, at times inaccurate and at times deeply unfair and harmful to individuals and to institutions".

The Prince acknowledged Thomas Jefferson's views that "these faults are the 'reality of our liberty'... virtues and vices rolled into one". He added that the media had sometimes been "too cynical, too ready to assume the worst", and, as a result, "important parts of British life have become damaged because of the failings not of the institutions themselves, but of individuals within them".

Touching on the row over government "spin", Prince Charles said "the boundary between constructive comment about structures and destructive scepticism about the integrity of any public servant seems sometimes to be blurred ... Does our faith in the integrity of the Civil Service – or public service itself – not become dented by the actions of a small minority of individuals?

"The public services' roots are human ones, and their reputations are susceptible to long-term decay and [the] corrosive drip of constant criticism. A degree of this criticism stems from a culture which is too often concerned with complaining, everyone demanding their 'rights', whatever they may be, and blaming others when things go wrong."

The Prince of Wales later visited the London Press Club, at St Brides Institute, for a newspaper exhibition, and was photographed staring with bemusement at a News of the World front page about the Earl and Countess of Wessex giving up their jobs, headlined "At Last". The story was about "Royal handouts".