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British Press - Essay Example

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When people talk about "free press" they mean a press that is independent of direct state control. Since the abolition of the Star Chamber Court and the abandonment of press licensing in 1695, as well as the 1792 Fox's Libel Act and the 1843 libel reforms, the British press was now believed to be independent of state's political, ideological and financial control (Currant, 2002, 79)…
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Download file to see previous pages Today, some of the influences that restrict the notion of press freedom include: "the political commitments and private interests of media shareholders, the influence exerted through news management and the ideological power of leading groups in society." (Currant 2002, 221)
The term "fourth estate" refers to media, which was the fourth estate after the proverbial "three estates": the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the House of Commons (MSN Encarta Online). More recently, it has come to refer to the press' "explicit capacity of advocacy and its implicit ability to frame political issues" (Wikipedia). Originally, the press stood in "an antagonistic and inquisitional role in relation to the state and its institutions", but with the changes in direct state control and the emergence of politically affiliated "free" press, the press has now become "a part of the political machine" (Negrine 1994, 44). Although the idea of the press as the "fourth estate" has been criticized as a myth, many critics suggest that politicians have a vested interest in maintaining the propaganda of an independent press. (Negrine 47). Inherent in Baislow's term "fourth-rate" then, is the strong belief that the press industry is in urgent need of reform.
3. How partisan is the British press
Many sources argue that the British press is quite partisan, which is an ironic development from the press' "freedom" from the state, which actually "freed it into the arms of eager politicians" (Negrine, 42). Without state subsidies and stamps, newspaper went through a process of commercialization which gave birth to a press that is "predominantly supportive of established power" contributing to "the underlying conservatism of British society." (Currant 2002, 103)
Among the criticisms levelled at the British press is its right-wing bias. (Currant 2002, 98) Curran, for example, shows that papers such as the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, Daily Sketch and Daily Herald/Sun were unflinchingly partisan for decades, reflecting the influence of "a new generation of partisan, interventionist proprietors" (Curran 2003, 69), even if the majority of their readership does not support the political leaning of the papers' proprietor.
In the pre-world war period, there were many newspaper proprietors who were politicians, and later many journalists and editors were politically engaged, while some papers were even funded by political parties because they espoused the same political ideologies. "Despite the growing independence of the press from political parties, vestiges of 19th-century practices remained as politicians persisted in summoning newspapers to their side of the political battle by whatever means possible." (Negrine 44)
However, partisanship is not strictly true of all newspapers, at least not in their initial years. Today is one example, or The Independent, launched in October 1986 with venture capital, which "seeks to give fair coverage to all political viewpoints and to treat all views with a degree of respect not always found in other serious newspapers". (Negrine 51)
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