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The Hypodermic Needle Model

Advertising and World War I propaganda The 'folk belief' in the Hypodermic Needle Model was fuelled initially by the rapid growth of advertising from the late nineteenth century on, coupled with the practice of political propaganda and psychological warfare during World War I. Quite what was achieved by either advertising or political propaganda is hard to say, but the mere fact of their existence raised concern about the media's potential for persuasion. Certainly, some of the propaganda messages seem to have stuck, since many of us still believe today that the Germans bayoneted babies and replaced the clappers of church bells with the churches' own priests in 'plucky little Belgium', though there is no evidence for that. Some of us still cherish the belief that Britain, the 'land of the free', was fighting at the time for other countries' 'right to self-determination', though we didn't seem particularly keen to accord the right to the countries we controlled. The Inter-War Years Later, as the 'Press Barons' strengthened their hold on British newspapers and made no secret of their belief that they could make or break governments and set the political agenda, popular belief in the irresistible power of the media steadily grew. It was fuelled also by widespread concern, especially among litist literary critics, but amongst the middle and upper classes generally, about the supposed threat to civilised values posed by the new mass popular culture of radio, cinema and the newspapers. The radio broadcast of War of the Worlds seemed also to provide very strong justification for these worries. Concern also grew about the supposed power of advertisers who were known to be using the techniques of behaviourist psychology. Watson, the founding father of behaviourism, having abandoned his academic career in the '20s, worked in advertising, where he made extravagant claims for the effectiveness of his techniques. Political propaganda in European dictatorships 1917 had seen the success of the Russian Revolution, which was followed by the marshalling of all the arts in support of spreading the revolutionary message. Lenin considered film in particular to be a uniquely powerful propaganda medium and, despite the financial privations during the post-revolutionary period, considerable resources were invested in film production. This period also saw the rise and eventual triumph of fascism in Europe. This was believed by many to be due to the powerful propaganda of the fascist parties, especially of Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels had great admiration for the propaganda of the Soviet Union, especially for Eisenstein's masterpiece Battleship Potemkin. Though himself a fanatical opponent of Bolshevism, Goebbels said admiringly of that film: 'Someone with no firm ideological convictions could be turned into a Bolshevik by this film.' The film was generally believed to be so powerful that members of the German army were forbidden to see it even long before the Nazis came to power and it was also banned in Britain for many years.

After the war, Speer, Hitler's armaments minister, said at his trial for war crimes: [Hitler's] was the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical means for the domination of its own country ... Through technical devices like the radio and the loudspeaker, eighty million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man. quoted in Carter (1971) While bearing in mind that Speer was concerned to save his own skin, we have to recognise that this view of the manipulative power of propaganda was fairly typical. Post-War and the present day With the development of television after World War II and the very rapid increase in advertising, concern about the 'power' of the mass media continued to mount and we find that conern constantly reflected in the popular press. That concern underlies the frequent panics about media power. In the popular press, Michael Ryan was reported to have gone out and shot people at random in Hungerford because he had watched Rambo videos, two children were supposed to have abducted and murdered Jamie Bulger because they had watched Child's Play. After the 1992 General Election, The Sun announced 'It's the Sun what won it' - a view echoed by the then Conservative Party Treasurer, Lord McAlpine, and the defeated Leader of the Opposition, Neil Kinnock.
Horror comics

This kind of concern has a long history. Even the Greek philosopher Plato was prepared to exclude dramatists from his ideal republic lest they corrupt the citizens. He wasn't prepared to have any truck with new music either: 'one should be cautious in adopting a new kind of poetry or music, for this endangers the whole system .... lawlessness creeps in there unawares,' he wrote in his Republic, in terms depressingly familiar to anyone who has heard what our guardians of public morality have had to say about Elvis, Hendrix, Sid Vicious, Madonna and the rest, not to mention the waltz and the tango!In the 1950s there was a sustained campaign in Britain against American horror comics, a campaign which saw an unlikely alliance of the morally outraged right and the British Communist Party, concerned about the American, antiCommunist messages in the comics (Barker 1984a)) an alliance reminiscent of the rather odd anti=pornography alliance today between some radical feminists and the religious right. The campaign resulted in the Children and Young Persons Act 1955, which is still in force today; the 1958 film The Wild One with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin was banned because it might lead to juvenile delinquency; Alan Watkins' brilliant The War Game was banned because it might unduly alarm the public (though most likely because it told some unpalatable truths about nuclear warfare). The concern is always with the effect the questionable messages might have on those who are most susceptible - children, adolescents, the mentally unstable - and, of course, those who express the concerns are not themselves corrupted by those messages. The prosecuting counsel in the trail on obscenity charges of D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover famously asked the jury if it was the sort of thing they would 'want

their servants to read'. Would the servants be corrupted by the use of the word 'fuck' while their masters wouldn't? I suspect that the unspoken question was whether they would perhaps be corrupted by the tale of a servant 'fucking' a master (mistress in this case). It's not difficult to see how a concern with moral standards can be close to a concern with keeping people in their place. Today those concerns would probably strike most of us as laughable when we read the comics and watch the movies that were banned. Will it seem silly in twenty years' time that in the '90s the sale of hard-core porn was limited to licensed sex shops, that various European governments tried to ban the Red Hot Dutch Channel and that software was available to screen out rude words on the Net?
Video nasties

It might, but there was a re-run of the horror comics campaign during the 1980s with the video nasties campaign, which led to the Video Recordings Act. Just as the 1955 Act had been supported by an unlikely alliance of the right and the CPGB, so we find that the video nasties campaign was spearheaded by the Conservative MP, Winston Churchill, with the support of many feminists (Barker (1984b)). Whether or not these concerns will strike us as silly at some time in the future, they are used by the 'moral entrepreneurs', such as Mrs Whitehouse of National VALA, Winston Churchill MP, or Nicholas Alton MP, or feminists like the American Andrea Dworkin, to determine what limitations there should be on what you and I see, read and listen to. And those people are in part responsible for the existence of the BSC, BCC, ITC, the various Royal Commissions on the Press, the BBFC, National VALA, the Video Recordings Act, the ASA, the Obscene Publications Act and all the other regulations which make Britain's media one of the most restricted in the 'free world'.

The Mass Media as Fourth Estate

The mass media are often attacked by left-wing critics: from within the broadly Marxist vein of critical theory they are criticized for reproducing the dominant bourgeois culture; from within the 'political economy' vein of research, they are attacked for representing the interests of those who own them (see, for example, Chomsky's 'propaganda model'). Carlyle's definition of the fourth estate However, from the perspective of those researchers who see the media as situated within the model of a pluralist liberal democracy, the mass media are often seen as fulfilling the vitally important rle of fourth estate, the guardians of democracy, defenders of the public interest. The term fourth estate is frequently attributed to the nineteenth century historian Carlyle, though he himself seems to have attributed it to Edmund Burke:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, .... Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. ..... Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite. Carlyle (1905) pp.349-350 Carlyle here was describing the newly found power of the man of letters, and, by extension, the newspaper reporter. In his account, it seems that the press are a new fourth estate added to the three existing estates (as they were conceived of at the time) running the country: priesthood, aristocracy and commons. Other modern commentators seem to interpret the term fourth estate as meaning the fourth 'power' which checks and counterbalances the three state 'powers' of executive, legislature and judiciary.(For more detail of this notion, click here: Habermas's public sphere In recent years increasing attention has been paid by media theorists to the notion of the public sphere as developed by German philosopher Jrgen Habermas. Habermas, implacable opponent of postmodernist theorizing, argues that in eighteenth century England there was the emergence of a 'public sphere ... which mediates between society and state', in which 'the public organises itself as the bearer of public opinion' (Habermas (1989)). Simultaneously with the growth of urban culture, where there was the development of a new arena of public life (theatres, museums, opera houses, coffee houses, etc.), there was also the growth of a new infrastructure for social communication (the press, publishing houses, libraries), together with increased literacy and better transportation. These communication webs allowed discussion of matters which branched out from relatively small groups into affairs of the state and of politics. According to Habermas, these led to increased social intercourse. Rather differently from Carlyle (above: 'it matters not what rank he has'), Habermas emphasizes that the public sphere was class-linked and therefore accessible only to members of the bourgeoisie. As Habermas sees it, any member of the bourgeoisie who had access to the technology (i.e. novels, journals, newspapers etc.) was able to join in popular cultural debate based on a firm faith in the value of reasoned discussion. As Mark Poster succinctly summarizes the idea, Although the public sphere never included everyone, and by itself did not determine the outcome of all parliamentary actions, it contributed to the spirit of dissent found in a healthy representative democracy. Poster (1995)

In fact perhaps the most evocative description of that kind of public sphere is to be found in Neil Postman's description of eighteenth century America, a society in which literacy was vastly more widespread and democratized than in the Britain of the time. Postman is also concerned to show how print literacy in itself encourages rational and ordered thinking, participation in contemporary debate and the ability to understand and follow detailed and complex argument. (Postman (1987): 45-64) Incidentally, the similarity of Habermas's claimed development of a public sphere to the current development of the Internet is striking and probably accounts in part for the renewed interest in his idea, some thirty odd years after it was first aired. (For comment on the Internet as public sphere, see Internet: general discussion) It has also no doubt come to be seen as an increasingly important question as increasing globalization undermines the power of the nation-state and the legitimacy of national democracies. As our traditional forms of representative, democratic politics apparently decline in relevance, as participation in such politics declines and citizens turn towards identity-based 'single issues', how can we develop a meaningful concept of the public sphere? Habermas identified a variety of liberal-bourgeois rights which guaranteed the operation of the various spheres and their institutions: A set of basic rights concerned the sphere of the public engaged in rational-critical debate (freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly and association etc.) and the political function of private people in this public sphere (rights of petition, equality of vote etc.). A second set of basic rights concerned the individual's status as a free human being, grounded in the intimate sphere of the patriarchal conjugal family (personal freedom, inviolability of the home etc.). The third set of basic rights concerned the transactions of the private owners of property in the sphere of civil society (equality before the law, protection of private property etc.). The basic rights guaranteed: the spheres of the public realm and of the private (with the intimate sphere at its core); the institutions and instruments of the public sphere, on the one hand (press, parties), and the foundation of private autonomy (family and property), on the other; finally, the functions of the private people, both their political ones as citizens and their economic ones as owners of commodities (and, as 'human beings', those of individual communication, e.g. through inviolability of letters). This 'bourgeois public sphere' is seen by Habermas, then, as an area of informed, public and reasoned debate, to which the emergence of an independent, market-based press was crucial. It was open to a large number of people, within it various arguments and views were subjected to rational discussion and government policies were systematically submitted to its critical scrutiny. However, according to Habermas, after the first half of the nineteenth century the situation changed, as the public sphere became dominated by a strong, expanded state and a press which represented organized economic interests. The media, from having been part of the public sphere of reasoned discussion, became part of the process of 're-feudalization' of the public sphere as state, industrial conglomerates and the media undergo a process of fusion. The media became the manipulators of public opinion, conditioning the public into the rle of passive onlookers and consumers. Similarly to

Habermas, Elliott argues that in 1980s Britain technological and economic developments were promoting a continuation of the shift away from involving people in societies as political citizens of nation states towards involving them as consumption units in a corporate world. Elliott (1982: 243-244) in Golding and Murdock (1991: 23)) The 'fourth estate', 'guardians of the public sphere' become increasingly converted into industries, wholly oriented towards the profit motive, just another business held by some conglomerate. For Habermas the decline of the public sphere is linked to the triumph of instrumental rationality which he later discusses at length in his Theory of Communicative Action Habermas pleads for the revivification of the 'lifeworld' which operates according to principles of communicative rationality, but which has been 'uncoupled' from 'system' which operates according to principles of money and power, reward and punishment. The instrumental rationality of the system invades or 'colonizes' the lifeworld and thereby erodes the public sphere. McGuigan takes as an example the Thatcherisation of Independent Television in the UK, after which casualisation, poor pay and overwork all grew apace. Colin Sparks (1994: 151) has likened the resultant labour market to a peasant economy: '[Independents] are the industrial equivalent of small peasants who work themselves and their families to death in order to hold onto the family plot after the realities of the market place have dictated that it would be rational to sell up to a large capitalist farmer and move to the city to find work.' Is this, then, the 'refeudalization of the public sphere' at the point of production? The robber barons themselves now raid on a much grander scale than in medieval times, organizing neo-feudal relations of production and consumption in the burgeoning information industries across the globe. McGuigan (1996: 93) The output of the robber barons' media no longer, in Habermas's view, can be seen as contributing to rational discourse in the public sphere. Rather it serves merely to entertain and turn the potential participants in the public sphere into mere passive consumers. Despite the radically different views held by Habermas and Baudrillard, the picture Habermas paints is not all that different in essence from Baudrillard's claim in In the Shadow of Silent Majorities that people simply don't care about 'the issues'. Baudrillard's silent passivities would equate, in Habermas's terms to a failure to take part in rational-critical debate (Baudrillard, though, seems to see them as having a kind of potential for a sort of resistance - the masses resist by demanding more of the same rubbish (though I may have misunderstood)). Habermas's refeudalization is Baudrillard's simulation of debate by TV politicians. It would seem fairly clear that Habermas's portrayal of the re-feudalization of the public sphere is influenced by Adorno's and Horkheimer's portrayal of the operation and effects of the 'culture industries' (see the separate section) and equally clear that he would not take quite the same view today. Apart from the thesis of the public sphere overstating and idealizing the free debate of the eighteenth century, it also overstates the 'dumbing-

down' thesis of modern media effects, assuming that the content of certain media products necessarily engenders passivity and false consciousness. Certainly, modern politicians attempt to manage the media agenda, certainly they rely on their spin doctors to present the right image, but in the eighteenth century they bribed voters and got them drunk on election day. The increasing mediazation of modern culture has been accompanied by increasing democratization, so media exposure cuts both ways. At the same time as it increases the potential influence of political leaders it should also be emphasized that this situation greatly increases the visibility of political leaders, and limits the extent to which they can control the conditions of reception of messages and the ways in which these messages are interpreted by recipients. .... Hence the development of mass communication has not only created new stages for the carefully managed presentation of leaders and their views; it has also given these leaders a new visibility and vulnerability before audiences which are more extensive and endowed with information and more power (however intermittently expressed) than ever before. Thompson (1990 :115) The media as watchdog It probably doesn't matter a great deal what Carlyle originally meant; similarly, it's probably of no great importance that Habermas has been criticized for idealizing the supposed period of informed public debate (for example, there were certainly class, gender and race imbalances in any public sphere that might have existed; it is also pertinent to ask whose public sphere is it and in whose interest does it operate?). What is important is that both writers paint a powerful picture of the media participating in the maintenance of the public sphere as a kind of neutral zone in which people organize and debate collectively and rationally for the benefit of the common good and contributing to the development of democratic debate. Thus, the term 'fourth estate' is used today to refer to the mass media as a powerful watchdog in liberal democracy, revealing abuses of state authority and defending the democratic rights of citizens. Media independence from the state - the free market Not surprisingly, since this view of the media's fourth estate function is rooted within the pluralist liberal democracy model, it is commonly accompanied by an assumption that the media, in order to act as fourth estate, must be independent of the state. In other words, the watchdog function can only be fulfilled by a free market organization of the media. It is assumed that, if the watchdog is subject to state regulation, then it will become the state's poodle. This argument has been used to legitimate the increasing deregulation of American and British broadcasting over the last decade or so. The regulation of broadcasting (even in the USA) was originally tolerated because the relatively limited number of frequencies available meant that franchises had necessarily to be limited. Therefore, since some had to be excluded from obtaining a franchise (a restriction which did not apply to anyone wishing to launch a press title), there was a requirement in both

countries of some measure of public service broadcasting (more especially in the UK), which to an extent would cater for the interests of those excluded from a franchise. However, the development of cable and satellite TV has meant that in the USA people can choose from more TV stations than newspapers and in Great Britain from at least as many. The deregulation of broadcasting, from this point of view, therefore becomes a legitimate goal, since, it can be argued, that will ensure broadcasting's independence of the state. Whilst in Britain the deregulation of the media has continued apace, a move justified in part by the desirability of reducing the interference of the 'nanny-state', this has not been accompanied by any significant liberalization of the Official Secrets Act . Despite New Labour's professed intentions of introducing a Freedom of Information Act, nothing has yet been passed into law and the proposals so far made for such an Act could hardly be recognized as promoting freedom of information. At present (mid-2001) it remains unclear what will be the effect of the European Convention on Human Rights, now part of UK law. Article 10 of the Convention prescribes a basic right to freedom of expression, which should be restricted only for pressing reasons of the public interest. Media concern with rational debate? However, whilst one can certainly find the media revealing abuses of state power - for example, the repeated exposures of 'sleaze' in parliament, especially within the ranks of the current (April 1997) Conservative majority in the UK parliament, we need to bear in mind that the prime function of most media organs today is to provide the public with entertainment. That naturally tends to negate any supposed fourth estate function, since there is not even much coverage of state practices in the first place, let alone any rational debate and criticism of them. As mentioned above, it is always pertinent to ask whose fourth estate is this and in whose interest does it operate? If we consider the current revelations of 'sleaze' on the part of Conservative MPs in The Sun, it could be argues that The Sun is performing a public service by making public the greed and sexual indiscretions of MPs, matters whose revelation is in the public interest. However, it should be borne in mind that these attacks on Conservative misdemeanours are within the context of The Sun's switch of allegiance from the Conservatives to New Labour. The Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch. In preparation for the 1997 election victory, Tony Blair, leader of New Labour was careful to court Rupert Murdock, whose support he believes he needs in the election. One way of gaining Murdoch support is to propose more lenient legislation than the Conservatives on cross-media ownership, which is indeed the position New Labour has adopted. During the early months of 1998, US media organizations have repeatedly had to issue apologies for misreporting. The New Republic discovered that certain articles by one of its most favoured young reporters were fabrications; the Boston Globe's Patricia Smith resigned after admitting to inventing characters in four 1998 columns; Time magazine at the time of writing (July 1998) is investigating what it suspects is untrue reporting in in its columns and on CNN regarding claims of US troops using nerve gas against other US troops in South-East Asia. A New York Times editor ascribed this current surge in misreporting to 'a massively increased sensitivity to all things financial'. This is in part due to the operation of the global free market as we see it operating in other spheres too: mergers into huge corporations, with the usual

attendant reductions in staff and staff training in order to maximize shareholders' dividends, shareholders who are to a great extent composed of retirement funds and insurance companies who will soon shift their stock elsewhere if they can get a higher return. In part it is probably also due to the increased competition arising from the use of new technologies. Photos are transmitted digitally, stories are e-mailed from across the globe, and perhaps more importantly scoops are announced on Web sites by freelancers running their own fairly small and cheap set-ups; 'freebooters' might be a more accurate term as some of them don't seem overly scrupulous about checking their facts. In such circumstances, the conventional media can be easily scooped by a small Web organization. As a signal of the shift from hard to soft news, Neil Hickey of the Columbia Journalism Review examined the cover stories of Time and Newsweek in 1987 and 1997. In 1987, Time had eleven covers relating to foreign news; in 1997, only one. Domestic hard news covers reduced from twelve to nine. In other words, the overall total for straight news dropped from around 45% in 1987 to 20% in 1997. Obsession with ratings, says Hickey, is 'at an all-time high' in TV newsrooms, where, until recently, ratings were largely an irrelevance, the emphasis being on news coverage. The broadcasters and the press editors respond to criticism by saying that the US public are currently not concerned with hard news as the economy is prospering and are not concerned with foreign news since the collapse of the USSR. In giving the public soft news, the media are merely giving the public what they want. To some that may sound like the way a democracy should function, but, in response to this argument Hickey quotes the former President of NBC News, Reuven Frank: This business of giving people what they want is a dope-pusher's argument. News is something people don't know they're interested in until they hear about it. The job of a journalist is to take what's important and make it interesting. in Sell The Front Page! by Neil Hickey, extracted by The Guardian, July 11, 1998, with permission from Columbia Journalism Review Media independence from their owners? Another factor which needs to be borne in mind is the increasing concentration of media ownership and the merger of media organizations with non-media corporations. It could be argued that, with the declining rle of national state governments and the increasing power of transnational corporations, the media watchdog should pay more attention to abuses by global capitalist institutions than by the state. And here, of course, is the rub. The supporters of the free, deregulated media market argue vociferously that media institutions must be independent of the state otherwise they will be in some way beholden to it. The argument runs, for example, that such media will think twice before criticizing the government of the day for fear of losing subsidies or of provoking restrictive legislation. So newspaper editors in Britain have campaigned against the introduction of any kind of right to privacy. Pressure for such legislation has mounted as the press have become increasingly intrusive in their coverage of royalty, celebrities and MPs. The British press point to the example of France, where there is an established right to privacy and where, as a result - or so they claim - the press is the government's lapdog. (It is ironic, perhaps, that Diana Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash allegedly caused by pursuing press photographers in Paris) (For further comments on the right to privacy, see the section

on the Press Complaints Commission. Note that the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into British law via the Human Rights Act in 2000. Currently, early 2001, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are about to sue for invasion of privacy, relying on the provisions of that Act. There has never before been a right to privacy in British law, so it remains to be seen how the courts interpret the Act, especially as it may conflict, particularly where the media are concerned, with the Act's guarantee of freedom of expression.) Similarly, Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp., for instance, claimed that the price paid by British broadcasters for their privileges was their freedom. From this argument, though, it surely follows logically that those media which are owned by major corporations must be beholden to those corporations, a corollary which Mr Murdoch chooses to overlook. The following issues are discussed in other sections of the Infobase:

possible effects of deregulation of broadcasting: Blumler supposed advantages of public ownership: public service ideal rle of the press in a democracy: the Royal Commission on the Press some of the possible influences newspaper owners may have had: newspaper ownership

But it is not an open and shut case. Supporters of the free market's independence of the state should bear in mind, for example, Thames Television's defiance of the Thatcher government in the Death on the Rock affair. On the other hand, those who argue that the free market must necessarily lead to protection of the owners' interests should bear in mind Donald Trelford's defiance of Tiny Rowlands. The question needs to be asked, though, to what extent the free press is at all free. When Carlyle advanced his notion of the fourth estate, he said that for anyone to become 'a power, a branch of government' in the nation 'the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite'. Carlyle is speaking here of the Habermasian public sphere in which a range of relatively small partisan presses present their views, which are taken up in discussion, fed back into, and commented on in, those presses in open and rational debate. As Habermas sees it, early capitalism was compelled to resist the state, hence the drive for a free press, open discussion of state affairs and the demand for political reform and greater representation. However, as capitalism gathered impetus, it moved from calls for reform of the state to the take-over of the state. Once the capitalist state was in being with the corporate financing of lobbyists and government think tanks, MPs' directorships, the injection of business funds into parties' election campaigns and so on, the media's rle underwent a significant change, in Habermas's view: where they had once been providers of information and argument to the neutral public sphere, they became manufacturers and manipulators of public opinion. The public sphere became a fake. This view seems certainly to be shared by Noam Chomsky, who comments that: What is being reported blandly on the front pages would elicit ridicule and horror in a society with a genuinely free and democratic intellectual culture. Chomsky (1996 : 91)

and that: The intellectual level of prevailing discourse is beneath contempt, and the moral level grotesque. Chomsky (1996 : 92) Thirty years after Habermas first sketched his gloomy vision of the collapse of the public sphere, the media have progressed ever further towards concentration of ownership, ever further towards monopoly capitalism. Murdoch's News Corp, for example owns around 60% of metropolitan daily circulation in Australia, Fox TV, Twentieth Century Fox, a controlling interest in BSkyB, Star TV (the SE Asian satellite channels), Times Newspapers, The Sun newspaper as well as magazine and book publishers including Harper Collins and Triangle. The enormous wealth and global reach of such media organizations is unprecedented, with the result that the free play of market forces hardly allows a level playing field. Does it necessarily follow that, because ownership is concentrated, because media conglomerates and the state share common interests, the media are powerful shapers of public opinion? It is a widely held view that that does follow - for example after the 1992 General Election, won by the Conservatives after confident predictions of a Labour victory, the Sun newspaper proclaimed triumphantly in a banner headline: 'It's the Sun wot won it!'; Lord McAlpine, Conservative Party treasurer, thanked the Conservative press for securing the victory; Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, blamed the Conservative press for Labour's defeat. There is plenty of evidence from the reception studies of the 'new audience research', though, that there is no such simple linkage between the views expressed by the media and people's political (or other) choices. Reception studies show that readers do readily develop oppositional readings of media texts. That is clear from the simple fact that somewhere around 40% of the Sun's readership - a fairly constant figure - are not Conservative voters. A revival of the public sphere? A recent study by the Harwood Group, Citizens and Politics: A View from Main Street America (sorry, I don't have a reference) revealed widespread dissatisfaction with news coverage. The factors we have discussed above (concentration on soundbites, focus on personalities in politics, sensationalism etc.) led people to feel that the newsmakers' agenda was not theirs. It has been suggested that TV talk shows have to some extent supplanted the news media in addressing people's genuine concerns. One only needs to take a quick look at some talk shows to see that the distorted infotainment which is presented there would hardly satisfy Habermas's criteria. I don't suppose that we would want to see the Ricki Lake or Jerry Springer shows as model democratic forums, with their barely articulate guests, their pop psychologists and their stacked audiences baying for blood. And yet..... in the USA there has been an interesting development over the past few years, namely the use of Web-based message forums devoted to these talk shows. On these message forums the debates which were aired on the show continue to be discussed. They are not moderated as far as I know, so the content is not always as reasoned as Habermas might like to see in his public sphere, nor, to the best of my knowledge, is

there any evidence that the producers take any notice of what is discussed. However, they look to me as if they offer potential for open and productive debate, especially as Web TV is just around the corner. Watch this space....

Introduction to Mass Media Effects Glossary of media studies terms

Media ownership in the UK

See the section on EU legislation for examples of ownership across the EU

Please note that you should treat all this information with caution as the media market is changing very rapidly. Circulation figures shown on this page are Dec 1999 figures (source ABC). Readership figures for any given newspaper are generally around three times higher than the circulation figures. Although circulation and readership figures are naturally of importance, it is important to the newspapers to know the demographic composition of their readership. In the information below, newspapers' readerships are characterized as

up-market middle-market down-market

as a very rough guide. Much more precise information is required by newspapers; for a useful discussion, see Express Newspapers' research section, which provides a useful overview of the newspaper market and considers some of the essential questions media studies students need to answer. For a full listing of all press, TV etc. try media uk For up-to-date circulation figures, try the ABC Databank (where you'll have to register but the information is free). For ownership details of virtually every media organ in the UK, as well as links to websites, journalists' e-mail addresses and more, check out MediaUK's Internet Directory, as well as the National Union of Journalists' excellent site. A very useful source of the latest information is the UK Business Park's 'company search' pages, whose media page summarizes the latest deals and rumoured deals and provides links to further details of individual media groups. See also Media Guardian. Produced by the Guardian newspaper, UK. A round-up of the latest developments in the media world - takeovers, mergers, IPOs, new TV projects, new magazine launches

etc. - gossip from the media world, condensed stories and major headlines from the specialist trade press etc. An invaluable insight into current developments in the media (especially in the UK). For a discussion of why media ownership matters (and much more), see MediaChannel For up-to-date news on developments in the media industry worldwide, discussion of journalism issues and a host of links to press and broadcasting institutions worldwide try the American Journalism Review at Another excellent source of news on the latest acquisitions and mergers worldwide, as well as their legal implications is the Communications Law Center at the New York Law School For media ownership in the European Union, see the highly detailed and up-to-date information at the Italy-based Media Law Site (take the link to The Media Market in Europe (seems to have disappeared; please e-mail me if you find it. October 8 2000: Alan Buchan has kindly mailed me that the link seems to be active again and (March 2001) Thomas Wachtler has kindly mailed me this link: You may also find something of interest at the US site, an attempt to 'make some of the relationships of the US ruling class visible'. For an extraordinarily comprehensive list of links to media organizations around the world, check out the Webovision site (sorry, this one seems to have gone missing; please mail me if you find it.) For discussion of some of the implications of media ownership, besides what is discussed in this section, see under fourth estate. For a broad overview of the regulation of media ownership in the UK, with links to the detail of Acts of Parliament, see the Department of Culture's Guide

This section deals with:

The argument for diversity o The Royal Commission on the Press Concentration of ownership Major groups o News International o Daily Mail and General Trust plc (DMGT) o Independent News & Media plc o Trinity Mirror o United MAI o The Telegraph plc o Pearson o Guardian Media Group plc

Free newspapers Satellite ownership Miscellaneous - some random bits and bobs

Introduction - the argument for diversity


Although the era of the press barons is long over, concern about the concentration of newspaper ownership and their possible political power continues. In its 1949 report the Royal Commission on the Press took the view that the press is more than just another business. It has a public task and a corresponding public responsibility, being the 'chief instrument for instructing the public on the main issues of the day':
The democratic form of society demands of its members an active and intelligent participation in the affairs of their community, whether local or national. It assumes that they are sufficiently well-informed about the issues of the day to be able to form the broad judgments required by an election, and to maintain, between elections, the vigilance necessary in those whose governors are their servants and not their masters .... Democratic society, therefore needs a clear and truthful account of events, of their background and their causes; a forum for discussion and informed criticism; and a means whereby individuals and groups can express a point of view or advocate a cause.' The Royal Commission was concerned to see that the press should show truthfulness and diversity and avoid sensationalism. This view was repeated by successive Royal Commissions.

Truthfulness was said to be the avoidance of excessive bias, which included the deliberate suppression or omission of relevant facts; thirdly exaggerated or highly coloured and emotive presentation of facts. Diversity was seen as the requirement that 'the number and variety of newspapers should be such that the Press as a whole gives an opportunity for all important points of view to be effectively presented in terms of the varying standards of taste, public opinion, and education among the principal groups of the population'. Sensationalism was seen as giving undue attention to crime, scandal, entertainment and human interest. The Commission was also concerned that the layout of newspapers should not 'dangerously stimulate public excitement in times of tension'.

In essence those are the two sides of the argument which we are still debating today. The Royal Commission recognised the value to democracy of a free press. At the same time they recognised the dangers for democracy of an unashamedly commercial press. Can these two different sides to the nature of the press both be accommodated? Concentration of ownership

The British Industry Media Group (Associated Newspapers, Daily Telegraph, Pearson, Guardian Media Group) is constantly lobbying for an end to cross-media ownership restrictions. Carlton and Granada are making it quite clear that they wish to take over more TV franchises. In the Broadcasting Bill of December 1995, the government announced its intention of removing the two-licence limit on ITV companies. Companies would be allowed to hold as many licences as they want, subject to a limit of a 15% share of the total viewing public. Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) already owns two of Scotland's strongest titles (Daily Record & Sunday Mail) recently acquired a 19.9% stake in Scottish Television and runs L!ve TV, a 24-hour cable service (now, thankfully, defunct). Concern over this rapid concentration is expressed by liberal reformers, such as the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF), as well as by advertisers (for example, if MGN had a majority holding in Scottish Television, they could force advertisers to buy space in MGN newspapers as a condition for buying airtime). The 1995 Broadcastiing Bill allowed regional newspapers with a share of between 20% and 50% of the area's circulation to own larger stakes in local radio. The Conservative government's 1995 Green Paper on cross-media ownership raised papers' circulation levels from 25,000 to 50,000 before referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is automatic. In December 1995, Virginia Bottomley, the then National Heritage Secretary, launched the government's Broadcasting Bill. The bill would allow newspaper groups to control ITV companies. However, Mirror Group Newspapers and Murdoch's News International would not be permitted to do so, because each exceeds the threshold of 20% of total national circulation. Nevertheless, they would be able to expand their cable and satellite interests and run digital TV services. Gerald Kaufmann MP, chair of the influential Commons National Heritage Select Committee, although a Labour MP, dismissed Labour's concerns about the increased concentration of ownership, arguing that the notion of monopolistic control of the media is meaningless with the 'multiplicity of entertainment channels, and a growing range of interactive services'. Similarly, Tony Blair, speaking at a conference in Australia to which he was invited by Rupert Murdoch, owner of NewsCorp, said that it was time to look again at the rules on cross-media ownership, which had, he said, been rendered largely outdated by technological developments. [This was before Blair became Prime Minister in May 1997]
....the British national press has been dominated by four companies at least since the mid-1950s. The newspapers published outside these large groups have never accounted for more than 24% of the market and, for the last 35 years at least, have had around 15% of the market. Sparks (1995) Media markets are currently in turmoil across the world, with worldwide conglomerates jockeying for position. As an example, the American Financier Kohlberg Kravis Roberts bought up the Reed Regional Newspaper group for

205 million in November 1995 and announced its intention to stalk further titles in the UK. Clearly one of the major concerns over increased concentration of ownership is the assumption that the press have an influence on the readership's political views and voting patterns. In this connexion you may find the Guardian articles Paper Chase and Paper Politics by Prof. Paul Whiteley of some interest. With ever-increasing concentration of the media, there is also the concern that the content of one medium may be skewed by the owner's interests in another. Typically, for example, it has often been claimed that Rupert Murdoch's newspapers have generally reviewed the output of BSkyB more favourably than is deserved. In 1998 an award-winning investigative team began an investigation of the lax security in theme parks and holiday resorts. As a result of these lapses, sex offenders including paedophiles had been hired as employees by some parks. One of the park owners to be investigated was Disney, amongst many others. As the investigation continued, it became apparent that Disney was at the centre of the story. When the reporters handed in what had turned into a damning expos of business world, ABC decided not to run it. Guess which family-friendly film producer and theme park company owns ABC. (Klein (2000 : 170)) The increasing financial might of the media corporations may also allow them to skew the market against their competitors. One classic example from the height of the Cold War was Axel Springer's press empire in the then West Germany. Many West German magazines which carried TV listings also carried the listings for East German TV. As East German communism was anathema to Springer he ordered the publishers to remove the East German listings. When some refused, Springer announced that he would not allow his newspapers to be delivered to those newsagents who stocked the offending magazines. As Springer published both the biggest-selling broadsheet (Die Welt) and the biggest-selling tabloid (Die Bildzeitung), capitulation was rapid. But it's not only media organizations which can wield this kind of power. So can the distributors, as, for example, Wal-Mart, which refused to carry Nirvana's In Utero album on the grounds that the artwork offended against the 'family values' it claimed to foster through its stores. The loss of the sales of a single album would make hardly a dent on Wal-Mart's sales, but it did represent a potential loss of 10% of the sales for Warner, who duly backed down (Klein (2000 : 167)). Klein points out that this type of censorship has become so common that many major studios have stopped producing NC-17 movies because they won't be carried by Blockbuster, otherwise they forfeit 25% of their earnings from video before the film is even released. Similarly, major magazines show advance copies to the big distributors before they ship them. Presumably it has occurred to the media moguls that it would be so much more convenient if they owned both the production and the distribution - so Murdoch owns BSkyB and Fox Studios, Sumner owns Paramount Films and Blockbuster Video, Vivendi owns Canal+ and Universal Films and Universal Music, Disney owns ABC and Miramax, AOL-TimeWarner-EMI - well, I guess it's obvious what they own.

Major groups
News International

For detailed information on the group's current holdings, visit News Corporation's 'Corporate Information' page, which includes links to ownership of television, film,

newspapers etc., as well as full company reports. The News Corporation has links to their media outlets which have web pages.

front page



Sun 3,437,716 down-market Times ( website) 665,393 up-market Today 614,459 (closed 17/11/95) News of the World 3,846,697 down-market Sunday Times ( 1,306,199 up-market website) (=37% share of daily & 39% share of Sunday newspaper sales - since this share exceeds the 20% share of circulation set by the government, NI will not be permitted to expand into ownership of ITV companies.)
Book Publishing

Harper Collins (

'Fire and Water - the booklover's website)

Shoppers Friend Times Educational Supplement ( website) Times Higher Education Supplement ( website) Times Educational Supplement Scotland Times Literary Supplement ( website) TV Hits (UK) (45%) Inside Soap (45%)
Satellite TV

British Sky Broadcasting (40%) (Sky claims 3,000,000+ dish homes) ( website) Sky multi-channels Granada Sky Broadcasting (49.5%) Fox Kids Sky Box Office News Corp's Asian TV channel was launched in the UK in January 2001. It brings to Britain Star News and Star Plus, aimed at British Asians. There is no additional production cost since both programmes are Star already being produced for the Indian market. Sky Global Networks will also be using BSkyB's existing distribution platform and expertise, so this should be a very cheap new venture for a large audience, likley to generate a profit of around 10 million per year. Currently (February 2001) Murdoch is in talks with DirecTV. If the planned $70 billion merger goes ahead, it will be Murdoch's first major acquisition since Star TV in 1993.

New media


Murdoch was initially skeptical of the Internet and NewsCorp's involvement came late in the game, so late that many pundits began to claim he'd lost his touch, as other news organizations scrambled to get on-line. In the meantime, after the shake-out of the dotcoms, it begins to look as if Murdoch might have been right again.

Rupert Murdoch (owner of NI, subsidiary of Murdoch's global operation, News Corporation) took over The Times and The Sunday Times in 1981. It is said that this was not referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission because of Mrs Thatcher's determination to reward him for his support in the election. It could be for the same reason that in the 1990 Broadcasting Act Sky TV was excluded from the restrictions which prevent newspapers from owning more than a 20% stake in terrestrial TV stations. Murdoch's company mounted a media assault on the BBC during the 80s and on Labour in every General Election from Thatcher's victory in 1979 to Major's in 1992, but switched to Labour in the 97 election. The Sun in particular was Murdoch's most spectacular success story in Britain and it is not a little ironic that it started life as a relaunch in 1964 of the Daily Herald, which had been a mass market broadsheet owned by the trade union movement. The relaunch was undertaken by the Daily Mirror, which targeted the new working class of Harold Wilson's Labour Britain, polytechnic-educated and working in the 'white heat of the technological revolution'. Within some five years it was virtually bankrupt. Murdoch bought it for a snip, relaunched it again, targeting the bottom end of the baby-boomer generation and completely turned it around to become the biggest selling tabloid in the UK, especially under the editorship of the brilliant Kelvin MacKenzie, who gave the newspaper a hard-right, Thatcherite and highly xenophobic feel and built circulation by adding bingo to the sex, sensationalism and entertainment which already characterized the Sun's content. Currently, the Sun has to face the problem of any well-established brand with ageing customers - how do you hang on to your old customers while appealing to their children? This is particularly difficult for the Sun whose target readership is the antithesis of the highly educated female readership many advertisers now wish to reach. Hugo Young, former political editor of The Sunday Times writes of the Murdoch version of that newspaper: 'Very little space is any longer available for the discussion of poverty, inequality, injustice or anything which might be recognisable as a moral issue. If there is an ethic at work, it is an unvarnished version of the business ethic.' Consider here, for example, the recent Michael Foot/KGB smear (the claim that a former leader of the Labour Party was in the pay of the KGB), the Kinnock/Kremlin smear in the 1992 election campaign and the savaging of Thames TV's Death on the Rock. The Sun can usually be relied upon to adopt a stridently xenophobic position on most issues relating to the non-British, ranging from the coverage of football (especially if England are playing Germany) to asylum seekers. In particular, the Sun will adopt an overtly jingoistic tone in any international conflict in which the UK is involved,

perhaps the most notorious example being its headline 'Gotcha!' when the Argentinian warship General Belgrano was sunk by a British submarine during the Falklands conflict. One of its most extraordinary outbursts came in November 2001 during the 'war on terrorism' in Afghanistan, when the newspaper accused those newspapers which failed to voice wholehearted support of being traitors. The Sun took the view that in times of war it is the duty of all press organs to support the government line, a view certainly in tune with the government's chief spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, who predictably criticized the 'corrosive negativism' of those newspapers which voiced any dissent. One wonders what Sun editor David Yelland thinks newspapers are for - presumably not to foster the 'diversity' which we have discussed above. Ralph Negrine points out (1994) that in recent years some newspapers have clearly abandoned any notion of social responsibility, throwing their weight wholeheartedly behind a political point of view, allowing no room for discussion and argument. He takes the 1984-5 miners' strike as an example. Editors of newspapers which supported the National Coal Board against the National Union of Mineworkers were favoured by ministers and given regular briefings Even the BBC's radio correspondent, Nicholas Jones, admitted that 'stories that gave prominence to the position of the NUM could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report' (p.66)) According to Negrine, specialist correspondents were kept well removed from the power centres and even an experienced and senior journalist like the Sunday Times' labour correspondent found his copy altered without consultation. The Sunday Times editor had a clearly political mission in this coverage, writing that [The Sunday Times] took a clear editorial line: for the sake of liberal democracy and the rolling back of union power ... Scargill [the NUM leader] and his forces had to be defeated, and would be ... Our views, however, were kept to where they belong in a quality newspaper: the editorial column. Referring to the decision by the Sun to swing its weight behind the Labour Party prior to the 1997 General Election, the Guardian's Peter Preston commented that there was no need to wonder at the curiously sudden conversion of the newspaper's editor: The reason why was painfully obvious. Every ex-News Corporation tabloid editor knew the form. 'You'd be sitting in your office getting out an edition,' said one, 'and the private line would ring. "Rupert here. What've you got? That's crap. Junk it." Whether it was news or views, he just told you what you had to do.' The orders came from LA or New York and they were orders. Shit, or be busted.' Since that General Election, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has continued to write regular articles for The Sun and Murdoch is reputed to be very influential with the Labour Party. Certainly, since their defeat in the 1992 election, Labour appears to believe that it is vital to have Murdoch on board. A March 1998 example of the allegedly close relationship between Murdoch and Blair was the former's 'phone call to the Prime Minister enquiring about his prospects for further developing his interests in Italy. When the call became public knowledge, Blair dismissed it as being no more nor less than he would do for any British businessman to further the country's fortunes. In this age of globalization, of course, 'British' is perhaps a rather fluid concept, but to refer to an Australian-born, naturalized American, whose companies succeed in

avoiding huge amounts of British taxes as 'British' seems to be stretching the concept rather far. Labour's constant attempts at media-friendly news management became a major concern during their first year of government, especially the activities of Alastair Campbell, the PM's press secretary, who has frequently been criticized by MPs from other parties. The comment by Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, Norman Baker is typical of such criticism: The motivation is clear. It is to keep Mr Murdoch on board and keep his newspapers on side. It seems the Prime Minister is very much in bed with Mr Murdoch The Guardian 25/04/98 Against the background of Labour's cosying up to Murdoch, the decision in April 1999 to accept the full recommendations of the Monoploies and Mergers Commission's enquiry into BSkyB's bid for control of Manchester United Football Club was a surprise. Media commentators had confidently predicted some kind of murky compromise, whereby the government would approve the bid, but impose some strict conditions to satisfy the public mood. Media coverage of the proposed merger had on the one hand pandered to populist pictures of outraged supporters determined to keep their club local, preserve its traditions and keep it out of the clutches of Mark Booth, BSkyB's CEO, who could not name Man U's left back - this of a club owned in part by Marathon Asset Management and in part by Abu Dhabi Asset Management! On the other hand, media coverages, especially in the broadsheets had paid much attention to the close relationship between Blair and Murdoch. The decision is potentially a serious blow to Murdoch, who, if he had succeeded, would have had a seat at the same table in Europe as Italy's Silvio Berlusconi (media mogul and owner of AC Milan) and France's Pierre Lescure (CEO of Canal+ and owner of Paris St Germain) and thus a bidding position for the European SuperLeague. Murdoch's interests also suffered a blow a month later when the Office of Fair Trading accused The Times of deliberately making a loss on the cover price (10p) of each copy of the Monday edition in an attempt to price its rivals out of the market. The OFT required that The Times should not again cut its cover price without providing a detailed explanation ten days in advance Whether Murdoch is pursuing what might be termed a 'political' agenda or simply seeking to further the interests of his media empire is an open question. Clearly, the pursuit of the latter must have political consequences, so political and financial motivation are in effect indistinguishable. Thus, a stance is bound to be adopted against public service broadcasting in Britain and against further integration with the European Union, which is perceived as interventionist and thus a threat to 'free' trade. Speaking at an international conference a few years ago, Murdoch praised the new communication technologies for their ability to 'pose an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere'. In 1994, however, when the government of mainland China had been upset by the BBC World Service's coverage of the brutal repression of student protest in Tiananmen Square and by an unflattering documentary on Mao Tse Tung, Murdoch removed the BBC from his Hong-Kong based Star TV programmes.

Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil has hinted that he was removed by Murdoch because of the newspaper's treading on the toes of the government of Singapore where Murdoch had financial interests. In February 1998 a storm erupted over the decision by Random House publishers not to publish a book by Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, despite having paid him 125,000 for the book. Patten declared his intention to sue, the commissioning editor of Random-House resigned, issuing a full statement through his solicitors and declaring his intention to take his employers to an industrial tribunal on the grounds of constructive dismissal. Interestingly, during the week when the story featured frequently in non-Murdoch newspapers, it was not even mentioned in The Times, Murdoch's supposed 'quality' daily. Johnathan Mirsky, former East Asia editor for The Times, claimed that the newspaper 'has simply decided, because of Murdoch's interests, not to cover Chain in a serious way'. (Klein (2000 : 172)) In the same week, The Sun which had consistently attacked Labour's plans for the Millenium Dome suddenly changed tack and threw its weight wholeheartedly behind the project. Could this have been connected with the recent investment in the Dome by Murdoch's BSkyB? There has been speculation too that the dropping of 'page 3 girls' from The Sun may have been Murdoch's, influenced by his new wife, Wendy Deng, 'which is absolute proof,' Julie Burchill drily commented in The Observer, 'that when a man is having good sex, he doesn't need porny pictures any more', though it's hard to imagine that Murdoch's decision was not more motivated by financial than ethical or sexual considerations. Much of the above is necessarily speculative, except for the Random House affair, which seems to be quite well documented. However, what seems to be a crystal-clear example of interference in editorial decisions in order to protect business interests was provided in a recent Observer article by Nick Cohen. Cohen's article concerns the case of reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson who, until recently, worked for Murdoch-owned WTVT in Florida. Wilson and Akre investigated charges that the US biotechnology conglomerate was not properly reporting the effects on animals of one of its drugs, using its legal and political muscle to oppose labelling efforts which would allow consumers to make an informed choice when buying dairy products. WTVT promoted the impending programme heavily. However, Monsanto's lawyers contacted the executives of Murdoch's Fox TV, which owns WTVT. WTVT were required to double-check the case to be made in the programme. They could find no fault in the two journalists' work. Fox disagreed, pulled the programme and ordered the journalists to re-write it - a process the unfortunate pair went through seventy times. Wilson and Akre complained to David Boylan, a Murdoch manager who was sent down to the TV company. Cohen reports that: Boylan's reply broke with all the traditions of the Murdoch empire. In a moment of insane candour, he told an unvarnished truth which should be framed and stuck on the top of every television set: 'We paid $3 billion for these television stations,' he snapped. 'We'll decide what news is. News is what we say it is.' Observer July 5 1998

According to Cohen, Akre and Wilson were repeatedly ordered to insert Monsanto's own claims into their report. They repeatedly refused and were eventually fired in December 1997. They have now filed a suit against Fox. Although Murdoch owns the PR company, Actmedia, one of whose clients is Monsanto, Wilson and Akre do not believe they were required to rewrite the story just to avoid upsetting a customer; rather They see the censorship as the natural consequence of the domination of communications by very right-wing businesses whose owners have more in common with the perpetrators of scandals than their audience. Observer July 5 1998 Finally, in August 2000, a jury found against Fox: After listening to all the evidence for five full weeks and deliberating more than six hours, a state court jury has agreed with what fired journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre said long ago: Fox Television pressured them to broadcast a false, distorted or slanted news report. ( August 18 2000) Fox's lawyers said they would appeal. It is rare to find clear evidence of journalists' stories being suppressed by owners, but that may in part be due to the fact that the owners don't need to suppress stories, since the journalists practise self-censorship in advance. In an Observer article of June 11 2000, Peter Preston quoted the results of a survey of 300 leading US media professionals across the US, conducted by The Columbia Journalism Review, which revealed that the third most regular reason why stories don't appear is that they are 'damaging to the interests of the news organization they're working for'. As newspapers increasingly become just another part of global conglomerates which own everything from cartoon characters to news magazines, as well as a range of interests beyond the media, this kind of pressure on journalists is bound to be an increasing cause for concern. There is, of course, nothing new in this financial pressure; newspapers are, after all, capitalist concerns. Mark Crispin Miller of the Project on Media Ownership at New York University claims that there is clear evidence of news being suppressed as long ago as 1935 when medical evidence of the dangers of smoking emerged, but was not reported, according to Miller, for fear of losing the vast advertising revenue from tobacco companies. The Daily Herald is reported to have withered away because there were insufficient advertisers willing to pay to address its working class readership and the left-oriented News on Sunday, launched during the eighties faced the same problem. Just as it is rare to find clear evidence of newspaper owners interfering directly in editorial decisions, so it is rare to find direct evidence of advertisers' pressure. However, startlingly clear evidence of one such attempt is provided by a letter from Ted Graham, the head of external communications at BT, to the deputy city editor of The Sunday Telegraph. BT had been irritated by reports in the newspaper which suggested tensions between members of senior management at BT. Graham wrote:

I should also point out that BT spends several million pounds each year advertising in the Telegraph; given your apparent vendetta against BT's management, is that advertising spend something we should continue? I don't believe either of us will benefit from this state of strained relations, but I cannot overstate the anger felt by the key players here in BT. (source: The Guardian 27/09/99) BT, of course, doesn't own The Telegraph (yet), so the editors are quite at liberty to tell BT's management where to stick their anger. But what if they did? What is worrying now, especially since the mega-merger in January 2000 of Time-Warner and AOL, is the sheer scale of the corporations and the vast range of their financial interests, not to mention the fact that the bigger they are, the more likely they are to be influential in the political arena. Blake Fleetwood, writing in the Washington Monthly (reprinted in the Guardian, 17/09/99), recounts how he had an idea for a story about Tiffany, the jewellery store, while he was working for the New York Times: The editors loved the idea, but as my finished story moved up the chain of command, things got funny. I suddenly realized that Tiffany was one of the largest and oldest advertisers at the Times. Fleetwood also reports how, in recent years, editorial staff have increasingly been given marketing responsibilities in the US press, penetrating the 'wall' between advertising and editorial. For examples of a variety of significant stories that failed to make the news, see Project Censored
Daily Mail and General Trust plc (DMGT) National Newspapers/ Associated Newspapers website


Daily Mail 2,338,592 middle-market Mail on Sunday 2,316,638 middle-market London Evening 385,480 Standard ( website) Metro (see below) (share of newspaper circulation: 13%, excluding Metro)
Regional Newspapers/Northcliffe Newspapers

List of links to Northcliffe Newspapers on-line Bristol Evening Post (24%) Cornish Guardian ( website) Derby Evening Telegraph Exeter Express and Echo

Gloucestershire Citizen Gloucestershire Echo Grimsby Evening Telegraph Hull Daily Mail ( website) Leicester Mercury ( website) Lincolnshire Echo Nottingham Evening Telegraph Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph South Wales Evening Post Stoke Evening Sentinel Torquay Herald Express ( website) Western Evening News Western Morning Herald Northcliffe Free Newspapers 27 regionals

Harmsworth TV (Channel One TV and the Performance Channel) Westcountry TV (20%) ITN (20%) British Path Performance Channel New Era Television Teletext (40%)

Chiltern Radio (18.5%) Classic FM (5%) East Anglian Radio (19.2%) Essex Radio (13.3%) GWR Group (26.9%) Radio Trust plc (39.8%) Swansea Sound (18%) Varying stakes in 13 ILR stations (19.3%) Vibe FM (50.01%)

Reuters (31.1%) Bristol United Press (40%) Whittle Communications Ltd (24.6%) Pulmans Weekly News (100%) Euromoney Institutional Investor
New Media

UK Plus This Is London This Is Money Charlotte Under One Roof

Owned until his death in September 1998 by Vere Harmsworth, third Viscount Rothermere since 1978, one of the 50 richest people in the UK. Wanted cross-media ownership restrictions lifted despite showing a 43% increase in group profits in 1994 (from 64.4m to 92.1m). 1998 operating profit was 89.8 million. DMGT at his death estimated to be worth 1.2 billion. Harmsworth's son Jonathan, Fourth Viscount Rothermere inherited the contolling share in DMGT. In London, the Evening Standard provides monopoly control of the London daily evening newspaper market. There is also a ten-year contract to supply a consortium of six London cable TV companies (the London Interconnect Group (LIG)) with 12 hours of TV daily. There is cross-promotion between the Evening Standard and the LIG. Sir David English, then editor of the Daily Mail , knighted by Thatcher in 1982 for services to journalism, was the authentic voice of Thatcherism throughout the 80s. The Observer commented on English's rle in the 1992 election: "In the dishing of Neil Kinnock, English excelled himself by merging fact with comment in a seamless robe of bias. For example, a straight(ish) report on Labour leader John Smith's tax plans 'to help the poor' was swiftly air-brushed for the second edition to read 'to savage high earners'." English was instrumental in realizing Harmsworth's ambition in turning the Daily Mail into a newspaper for women. Whilst I cannot disguise my distaste for its staunchly (sometimes loopily) right-wing political stance, it has succeeded in becoming a high-selling women's newspaper (overtaking the Express's sales and by 1998 challenging the Mirror in circulation figures) not merely by publishing a Princess Di supplement every weekend and giving space to diets and horoscopes, but by taking seriously matters which are important to women such as rape, workplace discrimination and domestic violence. This has led to criticism that the Mail portrays women either as victims or as babes. Whilst there is some substance in that criticism, the Mail at least has made some progress towards integrating 'women's issues' into the main body of the news rather than relegating them to a features section. English was criticized for poor judgment after the 1997 General Election, during which the Daily Mail maintained its Conservative support, even though it was evident that the Labour Party was likely to be victorious. Critics asked if he had lost touch with 'middle England'. Nonetheless, Rothermere was to be content to allow him to continue with his editorial line, even though Rothermere himself has since changed his allegiance to Labour. English died in 1998 to the usual chorus of praise from all sides of mainstream politics and was replaced by Paul Dacre. DMGT's take-over of the Nottingham Evening Post Group was stopped by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC). The MMC feared the take-over would reduce 'diversity of opinion' with the risk that 'editors in the Northcliffe Group will adopt similar positions on some issues as a result of close contact with each other and the uniform standards set by the group'. The then Industry Minister Tim Eggar rejected the report and allowed the take-over to proceed, with the result that DMGT now owns the largest contiguous grouping of newspapers anywhere in the UK. The government's recent Green Paper on cross-media ownership has raised papers'

circulation levels from 25,000 to 50,000 before referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is automatic.
Independent News and Media plc

The Independent 192,599 up-market The Independent on 196,671 up-market Sunday Various regional newspapers and recruitment magazines; a range of paid-for and free weekly papers in the London area. Independent newspaper website Independent News and Media website
Trinity Mirror Press Circulation

Daily Mirror 2,075,725 down-market Sunday Mirror 1,752,257 down-market Sunday People 1,413,681 down-market Racing Post News Letter (Northern Ireland) Sunday Business Post (Republic of Ireland) Daily Record (Scotland) Sunday Mail (Scotland) Share of national newspaper circulation: 23%. Since this figure exceeds the government's 20% limit, Mirror Group will not be permitted to own ITV companies.

North East = 25 titles North West = 48 titles Midlands = 45 titles South = 6 titles Wales = 32 titles
Cable Television

L!ve TV - famous for its topless darts and 'news bunny' (a newsreader dressed as a rabbit - don't ask me!), L!ve TV closed in the last quarter of 1999
New media and 22 more related sites

United MAI

Update 2001: After months of speculation, Express Newspapers were finally sold by Hollick. Rosie Boycott and her deputy editor at The Daily Express, Chris Blackhurst, had been charged by Hollick with the task of turning round the newspaper's fortunes, keeping it upmarket, but appealing to a younger, more progressive audience, and were promised access to the vast resources of United News and Media. According to Blackhurst (in The Guardian, Jan 29 2001), Hollick was an enthusiastic and regular particpant in management meetings. Suddenly, however, in May 1999, the tap was turned off, the first sign, in retrospect, of the papers' sale, a change of direction which apparently resulted from an investigation by management consultancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which concluded that further investment could be difficult to justify in a publicly listed company. Hollick's responsibility was to his shareholders and PwC appeared to be suggesting that the paper needed an ownerproprietor. For months speculation over buyers was rife - the Barclay Brothers, the Hinduja Borthers, Associated Newspapers, the Daily Mail and General Trust, Conrad Black, owner of The Telegraph and Hollinger Group. When the sale eventually took place (for 125 million), the new owner was a complete surprise: Richard Desmond, proprietor of the Northern & Shell magazine group, not least surprising because Desmond's stable includes Asian Babes, Nude Readers' Wives, the celebrity magazine OK! and Television X and The Fantasy Channel - which hardly seems to augur well for the maintenance of the 'upmarket' status of the Express stable. The Guardian revelaed 'that a company wholly owned by Mr Desmond has registered a website which promises live heterosexual sex, live lesbian sex as well as other images portraying women as old as 78, pregnant, and one who calls herself Anal Annie'. I gather Desmond sues anyone who refers to him as a 'porn king' - so I'll refrain. Some of the potential bidders have protested against the sale on the grounds that they might well have bid more, but Hollick has argued that if he had entered into negotiations with any of the other press groups, that would have triggered a competition commission enquiry, no doubt lasting several months, during which the value of the Express could well have declined. So this rather strange sale is essentially due to the capitalist imperative to maximize value for shareholders, a fine example of the possible conflict between private and public interest. Despite an expectation that the resources of Desmond's porn mags would be used to bolster the Express, he fairly soon started on a pretty savage cost-cutting exercise, which included selling off the Express websites (Express Digital Media) for 1. Technically, they were put into liquidation, which the staff claim was a cynical ploy by Desmond to avoid paying them redundancy compensation. The four-strong investigations team, originally brought in by then editor Rosie Boycott to help transform the newspaper into a credible organ of the left, were removed from the Express, though continuing to be employed within the group, on the grounds that the paper could no longer afford to pay for investigative journalism. Stephen Pollard, a leader writer who was one of the first big names to leave the Express wrote his final leader on the problems of the farming industry, arranged in such a way that the first

letters of successive paragraphs spelled the message 'fuck you Desmond'. The offer of a job at The Times was withdrawn. Unsurprisingly, the Express's editor, Rosie Boycott, many years ago founder editor of feminist magazine Spare Rib, to whose principles she remains loyal, has left, to be replaced by Chris Williams, until then Associate Editor. In the first ten weeks of Desmond's ownership, sales of the Express fell by 6%, the main beneficiary apparently being the Daily Mail, whose sales increased by 5%. United MAI has now, apparently, become United Business Media, which owns a range of British magazines, as well as a number of websites and newswires. United appears now to have abandoned its planned expansion into TV, it is selling off LineOne, its internet portal and ISP joint venture with BT and intends to sell off its remaining business-to-consumer internet operations, apparently preferring to stick with a business-to-business model. The Daily Express's website is closed. What follows below is what I wrote before Desmond's takeover. As soon as I have more details, I'll update this section. Further details can be obtained from the group's excellent a 3-D version!)
Press Circulation

website (which even has

Daily Express 943,898 middle-market ( website, which includes an excellent example of a demographic profile) Daily Star (same web url as 637,826 down-market above) Sunday Express 841,873 middle-market Share of national newspaper circulation: 14% Minority stake (29%) in the new Channel 5 tv channel Note: In February 1996, United News and Media merged with MAI. The New Group is now known as United MAI. The chairman of United was Lord Stevens, the managing director of MAI was Lord Hollick. What was surprising about the merger is that Lord Hollick is a Labour peer, while the Daily Express is a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party. During the May 1997 General Election, the Daily Express maintained its Conservative support. It's perhaps worth mentioning that most media speculation centred on the fate of Express Newspapers, whereas, from the point of view of the owners, perhaps, the Express is pretty small beer, representing as it does only 7% of the group's turnover. Hollick's hands-off approach changed quite unexpectedly in April 1998, when he appointed as editor Rosie Boycott, formerly co-editor of The Independent and originally employed with feminist magazine Spare Rib. Prior to Boycott's appointment, under the editorship of Richard Addis, the Express had started to move

slightly leftwards, in the direction of New Labour, but, under Rosie Boycott, this leftward move looks set to accelerate, if her comments to The Observer are anything to go by: 'I certainly wouldn't back [Conservative leader] William Hague under any circumstances. It is a shame [New Labour Prime Minister] Blair is having this romance with new money. Labour have to get back to the basics of reducing hospital waiting lists. But then the Labour Government have done some terrific things, with Northern Ireland at the top of the list.' (The Observer April 26 1998). Quite extraordinary comments from the editor of one of the Conservative party's most loyal supporters. Quite what the readership will make of their newspaper being edited by a leftish feminist supporter of the legalization of cannabis remains to be seen.
The Telegraph Group Ltd.

Up-to-date information about the group's activities and holdings can be found at its website

Daily Telegraph ( website) 968,630 Sunday Telegraph 773,360 Share of national newspaper circulation: 7.5% The owner of the Telegraph, Chair of Hollinger, Conrad Black is the thrid biggest press magnate in the world. In the UK, the group also owns the Spectator and also has major titles in Canada, Australia and Israel.

Up-to-date information about the group's activities and holdings can be found at its website
Press Circulation

465,737 up-market (which represents an astonishing 13% gain in circulation share during a period when all other papers except The Independent saw their share fall) Westminster Press (100%) Share of national newspaper circulation: 2% Also owns South African newspapers Financial Times (100%) ( website)

Addison Wesley (100%) Federal and Capital (100%) Longman (100%) Penguin (100%) US publishing house, Putnam
TV and Satellite

In early 2002, Pearson pulled out of commercial television, selling its 22% stake in RTL to Bertelsmann, giving Bertelsmann 89% control of RTL, which owns Channel 5 in the UK. BSkyB (3%) Thames TV (100%) Yorkshire/Tyne Tees TV (14%) On October 27 1995, the Channel 5 Broadcasting consortium, led by Greg Dyke of Pearson TV (20% share), was awarded the Channel 5 franchise. Dyke is now Director General of the BBC Also owns US gameshow originator Grundy and a stake in satellite operator SES Also owns Madame Tussaud's
Guardian Media Group plc

For full details of the group's operations and methods, see their
Press Circulation

own page.

The Guardian ( 381,013 up-market website) The Observer 398,124 up-market Share of national newspaper circulation: 3% Although the Guardian and the Observer, both politically left of centre, are traditionally rather sniffy about right-wing newspapers, especially those owned by Murdoch, the Observer, when it was owned by Tiny Rowland, certainly seemed to be subject from the proprietor, whose long running battle with the Fayed brothers for control of the House of Fraser (to which the famous London store, Harrods, belongs) was regularly featured in the newspaper throughout the 80s. On the other hand, however, in 1984, when the then editor, Donald Trelford, was told by Rowlands not to run story critical of the regime in Zimbabwe, where Lonrho had significant investments, Trelford refused and insisted on running the story, with the unanimous support of his staff. He also offered to resign, thus putting Rowlands in the no-win position of either accepting the resignation and thus generating storm of protest against Lonrho, or refusing the resignation and strengthening Trelford's position. This latter incident lends support to the view of those who see the media as performing an essential 'fourth estate' function. In this case, they would argue, journalists are seen to be asserting their professional independence and Rowlands, who would have been tried before the 'court of public opinion'
emap Press

Elle The Face Arena + around 80 other consumer titles + 100 business titles

The Box

Kiss FM Magic Piccadilly Radio + 15 others

New media emap owns around 40 magazines in France. Free Newspapers I've tucked this bit in here at the end of the section on newspapers because the current struggle over free newspapers' market share is quite fascinating to watch. At first sight, it looks a bit like the economics of the madhouse as newspaper companies fall over one another to give their products away free, at a time when most newspapers' circulation figures have fallen year on year for the last decade. Quite how you get rich from giving stuff away is a bit of a mystery to me and looks rather like commercial suicide, but, if Internet companies seem to see their shares more highly valued the greater the operating loss they make, maybe it makes some kind of sense. (I never have understood money.) In this case, the idea arose not in the US, but in Sweden, where a small publishing company, Modern Times, run by a group of young people dreamt up the idea of giving away a free newspaper called Metro, which they distributed in the major cities to the morning commuters, achieving a circulation of 240,000 a day. The idea turned out to be such a money spinner that it soon spread to other major European cities, even becoming the major morning newspaper in Prague and Budapest. As far as I am aware, Rothermere was the first in Britain to launch a Metro clone, presumably because he must have seen such an idea as a threat to his own London-based Evening Standard. Meanwhile the battle has been joined by more the major newspaper houses, which have recently (Jan 2000) been throwing injunctions at one another with a total disregard for yet more expense in an effort to prevent rivals from using the word Metro in the titles of their freebies. DMGT lost four court cases in Manchester, where it was up against the Guardian Media Group, which distributes its own Metro. The Swedes entered the battle too, distributing their own free newspaper in Tyneside, but

retired hurt under the assault from DMGT and its partners, Trinity-Mirror. Metro is distributed in regionalized versions in London, Birmingham, central Scotland, Newcastle and Manchester with total distribution around 800,000. In January 2000, the Yorkshire Metro was released with circulation around 55,000, intended to rise to 75,000 by March. Though it may seem madness to give away a newspaper which is often in competition with your own paid-for publications, it seems that the free ones are able to reach a new generation of wealthy urban consumers, which must make them the advertisers' Holy Grail. This will be interesting to watch, I think, though there is a possibility that the Competition Commission will feel obliged to intervene at some point soon. International stations - ownership Internationally, the two major players are Rupert Murdoch, who owns BSkyB in Europe and a range of other satellite broadcasting facilities around the world and Ted Turner, who owns CNN. Amongst news services, the BBC's World News Service is worthy of mention, as it has a reputation for impartiality and reliability. If you are interested in checking out Ted Turner's interests, try:

CNN Interactive news site CNN Networks, which contains a list of CNN's holdings Turner Entertainment Group Turner Broadcasting Systems Turner Foundation, which concerns Ted Turner's philanthropic work

In Europe, these are the big names:


Transmitted in Europe on the Intelsat satellite. Owned by Ted Turner

UK Gold

Britain's most successful satellite channel outside BSkyB. Stakes held by BBC and Telecommunications Inc (TCI). TCI is a US corporation whose subsidiary in Britain is Flextech, which owns The Family Channel, Playboy, Bravo, Discovery and The Sega Channel and has a 20% holding in Scottish TV; TCI, through its UK subsidiary Tinta, also is part-owner of TeleWest, the UK's largest cable operator. (An interesting recent development (early 1999), which highlights the extraordinary complexity of the global media, is Murdoch's move to full ownership of Fox/Liberty, buying out John Maolne's US-based Liberty Media. Liberty Media own a controlling share in Flextech, which probably means that we will see a close co-operation between BSkyB and Flextech's UK-based pay-TV operation in the near future.) In addition, TCI owns the largest cable operation in the US (but is nevertheless also behind two US satellite systems), has a presence in eighteen countries (including France's Canal+) and interests in more than a hundred programme outlets, including Ted Turner's Turner

Broadcasting Sytems and many Japanese outlets. TCI is also a major investor in Bill Gates's Microsoft Network. Not unlike Murdoch's UK-based News International, TCI (run by John Malone) has never shown a profit (and therefore not paid taxes). As an example of the complexity of media ownership, consider the Federal Trade Commission's permission for the merger of Turner Broadcasting Systems and TimeWarner: the FTC had concerns about the monopoly implications of the deal as TCI owns 7.5% of Time-Warner and 22% of Turner. As Time-Warner and Turner account for around 50% of US cable subscribers, the FTC required TCI to transfer its shares in Time-Warner to another company spun off from TCI's control and also to require some cable systems to carry another news service in addition to CNN.

By far the dominant satellite broadcaster in Europe, as shown in the ITC's figures:
Channel Audience share (%)

Sky One Sky Sports Sky Movies The Movie Channel Cartoon Network UK Gold Nickelodeon Disney Eurosport UK Living

1.24 1.04 0.87 0.79 0.70 0.56 0.42 0.30 0.29 0.26 12 months to Sept. 30 1996 Source: ITC, Graphic News

As a point of comparison, BBC1's share of the TV audience was 32.5% Transmitted on the Astra satellite. 40% owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Other stakeholders are: Path (17%); British terrestrial broadcaster, Granada, part of the ITV network (11%); Pearson (3%). In 1995, Sky One was the most popular satellite channel, with a 4.8% share of the British TV audience. Its growth-rate is expected to outstrip ITV's by the year 2000, overtaking ITV's current annual advertising revenue of 1.4bn. BSkyB's introduction of pay-per-view for major sports events led to calls from Parliament to ensure that the 'national heritage' in sports should not be sold to the highest bidder, but such calls seem in fact to have had little effect. BSkyB took over 5m for the broadcast of the Bruno v Tyson boxing match; BSkyB has exclusive rights to coverage of Premier League football matches until 2001; the report of the Office of Fair Trading's eqnuiry into pay TV in the UK merely asked BSkyB for informal undertakings that it would allow fair access to its subscription system. In May 1996, Murdoch's News Corp and TCI's Liberty Media and Tinta (see above under UK Gold) signed a global agreement to work together on the acquisition and distribution of world sports rights. In the US in February 1997,

Murdoch's American Sky Broadcasting paid $1bn for half the equity of EchoStar, the US's fastest growing DBS (direct broadcasting by satellite) provider. Murdoch stated at the time that his real targets were the cable providers, rather than rival satellite providers, an interesting remark in the light of the global agreement with TCI on sports.

Owned by Berlusconi of Italy. Dominates Italian TV and has interests in other countries, including France's TF1, Germany's Tele 5, Spain's TeleCinco and stations in the former Yugoslavia.

Transmitted via the Eutelsat-II F1 satellite. It aims within Europe to rival CNN and is financially assisted by the EU.

Not a station, but a company, mentioned here because it has been France's great success story in communications corporations, since 1994 under the leadership of Jean-Marie Messier, who transformed it from a state-owned, over-bureaucratic and soporific water company into an international player in both environmental concerns such as water supply and communications, where the company owns 49% of Canal+, 39% of the UGC cinema chain and 20% of Path, which gives it a 17% stake in BSkyB. Vivendi owns SFR which controls 40% of France's mobile phone market and forms an important part of Cgtel, a telecomms group with both fixed and mobile capacity and in which Vivendi has a 40% stake. It is in an Internet alliance with AoL and Germany's Bertelsmann, plus the French publisher Larousse and Robert Laffont and the weekly news magazines L'Express and L'Expansion. Watch this space. (source: Scaring the Pants off Rupert Murdoch by Jon Henley, The Guardian 26/06/99). In December 2000 Vivendi merged with Canal+ and Seagram, a Canadian producer of alcoholic drinks, which also own Universal Films and Universal Music, the biggest music producer in the world. Vivendi Universal promised its customers 'every access to the Internet by all existing means, at any time, anywhere'. The number of customers for Canal+ is projected to reach 24 million by 2005. Now the second largest media group in the world.

Viacom is also mentioned here because many may not have heard of its owner, Sumner Redstone, though he is possibly as influential as the Rupert Murdochs and Ted Turners of the media world, running, as he does, Simon and Schuster books, MTV, Nickelodeon, Blockbuster video shops, Paramount film studios and, possibly, by the time of writing, the CBS network, from which, ironically, Viacom was spun off by the regulators in the first place, fearing that CBS was acquiring too much influence. In the meantime, the Federal Communications Commisssion has ended its prohibition on a single group owning two TV stations in the same market.

Miscellaneous Here are some fairly random bits and bobs relating to media ownership in the UK. I invite you to treat them with some circumspection, as the pattern of media ownership changes so fast that it's almost impossible for me to keep up with. (last update : July 2001)

Microsoft boss Gates is clearly determined to extend his reach beyond PC software to the new media. In the UK, his company holds stakes in telecommunications companies Telewest and NTL. He may be linking up with Murdoch in the proposed merger between Sky Global and DirecTV.

At the beginning of 2000, AOL boss Steve Case steered his company through the takeover of Time-Warner, then the biggest merger ever. In the UK he took over IPC in July 2001 for 1.15 billion.

Under the leadership of Chief Executive, Adam Singer, cable company Telewest has merged with content provider Flextech andhas developed 12 satellite and cable subscription channels.

The largest group of independent radio stations, including Classic FM and Digital One. Currently prevented by law from making further acquisitions.

Owns Scottish and Grampian TV, Virgin Radio and Herald newspapers.
IPC Media

The UK's biggest magazine publisher, around 100 publications reaching over 50% of the population. Titles include Marie-Claire, Loaded, NME, What's On TV and Country Life. Taken over by AOL Time Warner in July 2001. Interesting that Warner HBO, which produces some of the biggest money-spinners on TV now owns What's On TV; interesting that Warner Music now owns NME.

Europe's biggest TV and radio broadcasting and production company. Based in Luxembourg it controls 23 TV channels and 17 radio stations in Europe. In the UK it controls Channel 5 and Pearson TV. It is 89% controlled by Bertelsmann.
Press Holdings

Owned by the reclusive Barclay brothers and run by Andrew Neil, former Sunday Times editor. Publisher of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Business.

Gannett of Arlington, Virginia, owns Newsquest, operator of over 300 regional newspapers in the UK.

Related articles:

For up-to-date information on the press in France, check out Geoff Hare's page of links at the University of Newcastle See the section on EU legislation for examples of ownership across the EU See the section on EU legislation for examples of ownership across the EU De Fleur's model of the taste-differentiated audience Public Service broadcasting Broadcasting systems

Introduction to Mass Media Effects Glossary of media studies terms

Press Complaints Commission

Address 1 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8AE (0171-353 1248) Special helpline for members of the public who fear a breach of the Code of Practice may take place in respect of their own affairs: 0171-353 3732 Website: Organization

President: Lord Wakeham (1995) - note that in early 2002 Wakeham resigned his chairmanship 'temporarily', announcing it was the 'honourable' thing to do, given that he had acted as a director for the bankrupt energy company Enron and that it would therefore, given the intensity of press attention, for him to continue as Chair of the PCC until the Enron matter was settled. Sixteen members: Chairman, Public Members (8 in 1995) & Press Members (7 in 1995) Chairman not allowed to be involved in press business. Public Members may not be connected with press business. Press Members must be experienced at senior editorial level. Funded by press industry. History A voluntary Press Council existed for some 40 years, which was generally considered a toothless watchdog. During the 1980s there was mounting concern about press standards, notably as regards the moves downmarket of the 'gutter press', as well as much much concern about invasion of privacy, in particular the relentless hounding of the younger members of the Royal Family, as well as various politicians The Conservative government therefore appointed Sir David Calcutt to run a Departmental Committee of enquiry. Calcutt Committee reported (1990) that there should be a new, non-statutory Press Complaints Commission. The press were given eighteen months to see if it could work. If it failed, then the Government was urged to introduce legislation. The press were warned by Government that they were 'drinking at the last chance saloon'. In the event, the PCC was set up with great speed by the press in order to avoid statutory controls. It is a matter of debate whether the press have improved their standards. David Mellor MP, the first Minister for the National Heritage in John Major's post-1992 government was perhaps the first in the new government to find himself exposed across the front pages. Some ministers would probably argue that it is unwarranted invasion of privacy to print stories of a politician's dalliance with an actress. The press argue that it is in the public interest to expose such matters - the 'fourth estate' argument. Despite the claimed success of the Commission, Lord Wakeham continued to warn as late as April 1995 that privacy legislation was still on the agenda and he urged newspapers to avoid destroying the excellent work of the PCC by 'a crisis of our own making'. (The Guardian 05/04/95) The question of standards of press behaviour has repeatedly arisen. For example, the issue of digitally edited photographs has become a major issue on at least two occasions. One was when the the then Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in opposition, John Prescott (now Deputy Prime Minister (1997)), was shown in a photograph together with his wife sitting at a pub table on which was what appeared to be a bottle of champagne. The photograph was published in the Conservativesupporting London Evening Standard above an article which questioned whether

Prescott was now a 'champagne socialist' disloyal to his working class roots. This was in the very early days of the build-up towards the election campaign when the Conservative press attempted the difficult balancing act of claiming that the Labour leadership was anti-business and pro-union at the same time as also claiming that they were hypocritical in belonging to the Labour Party when they had all become middle class. It eventually transpired that in the original photograph there was in fact a bottle of beer on the table immediately in front of Prescott. It had been digitally removed from the picture. Another high profile case arose in early 1997 when Murdoch's Sun published photos of Princess Diana and her lover Captain James Hewitt cavorting in a bedroom. The photos were shot, clearly with a very long range lens, through the windows of what appeared to be a country house. Unfortunately for the Sun, it transpired that the photos were a hoax, but the incident did nevertheless raise questions about press standards if they were prepared to publish pictures of a very intimate nature. How could they claim that this was information in the public interest? What could the Sun claim that the public had a right to know here? After all, Charles' and Diana's adultery during the marriage was in the public domain, admitted by each of them. What purpose could be served by publishing pictures of it? Except of course boosting circulation figures. In the summer of 1997, the Daily Mirror, arch-rival to the Sun reputedly paid a quarter of a million dollars for photographs of Princess Diana and her alleged lover at the time, Dodi Al-Fayed, kissing in a boat on the Mediterranean. Here again it emerged that one crucial photograph was digitally altered by the Mirrorto make it look as if the Princess and Al-Fayed were kissing. Finally, in August 1997, there was a wave of public revulsion against the 'paperazzi', the freelance photographers, who were widely believed to have caused the death of Diana and Al-Fayed as photographers on motorcycles chased their chauffeur-driven car through the streets of Paris, allegedly causing a fatal car crash. At the time of writing, it the cause of the crash has yet to be determined. On the day she died, her brother made a full frontal attack on the press, accusing every editor who had ever paid for sensational photos of her of having 'blood on his hands'. This sentiment seemed to be echoed by many of those who flocked to Buckingham and Kensington Palaces to mourn her. The Great British Public would do well to remember, though, that Princess Diana, self-styled 'Princess of Hearts', was good box-office. Whenever she was featured in newspapers, circulation rocketed. If newspaper editors can reasonably be said to be complicit in her death, then so must the newspapers' readers. One might also argue that one who deliberately courted media attention can hardly be said to have been 'hounded'. It is ironic, perhaps, that the Princess died in France, perhaps the country with the most draconian privacy laws in the whole of Europe. The issue of invasion of royals' privacy was high on the agenda again in May 1999, when The Sun editor, David Yelland, decided to publish pictures of the bride-to-be of Prince Edward in which one of her nipples was visible. Rival newspapers were quick to exploit the publication as a crass error of judgment, as indeed was the Palace. Interestingly, The Times, like The Sun one of the Murdoch stable, also criticized Yelland's 'empty folly' in publishing the picture. An Observer/ICM poll taken at the time revealed that 77% of those questioned felt Britain should have some kind of privacy laws to prevent press intrusion. It continued to seem unlikely, though, that

either the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, or the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, would relish any attempt to frame a workable law. Yelland, like every other newspaper editor, has the observance of the PCC's code written into his contract and can therefore be sacked if in flagrant breach. Murdoch 'stood by' his editor, but the media outcry over the pictures may well prove to have been a significant warning to the tabloids. This seems to be borne out by the opprobrium heaped on The Sport later in the year by other newspaper editors when Tony Livesey, editor-in-Chief, decided to run photos of Prime Minister Tony Blair's son Euan kissing a girl at the Ministry of Sound club. Several downmarket tabloids had also been offered the photos, but declined to publish because they clearly infringed against the code. After Tony Balir made a formal complaint to the PCC, other editors were quick to express their anger with Livesey and to distance themselves from The Sport's practice, no doubt in an attempt to defuse the row before it might lead to any strengthening of the Code. In The Guardian of April 12 1999, Lord Wakeham, the PCC's head, mounted a stout defence of the current self-policing system, arguing that the code imposes a significant degree of self-censorship on editors and that the 'genuinely independent' commission guarantees that the system will be operated fairly. In defence of the PCC, Wakeham pointed out that since 1991 the Commission had dealt with 25,000 complaints and that in all of those the editors had responded in terms of the code. Further, such problems as jigsaw identification of children in child abuse cases, identification of victims of sexual assault have now been almost completely stamped out, as also intrusion into the privacy of hospital patients and the unauthorized use of listening devices. Wakeham claimed also that he could not think of a single editor who would not correct an acknowleged inaccuracy rather than suffer the Commission's censure. Finally, in Wakeham's view, one significant virtue of the voluntary system is that it ensures cases are settled swiftly, 75% of all complaints being dealt with in forty working days, which, he says, would almost certainly not be the case if there were a statutory system, which would be challenged all along the line by editors. On the whole, ten years (in 2001) after its founding, the PCC seems to have been a success, though many commentators remain dissatisfied with the PCC's preference for acting as conciliator rather than judge, with the result that newspapers often have to publish a small correction or letter, which seems to many of the aggrieved to be a small price to pay for what they have suffered. Another significant criticism of the PCC is that it does not permit complaints by third parties or by groups. Thus, for example, there is no way that asylum seekers can respond to their vilification in the British press, unless one of them is named individually. Possible developments - the Human Rights Act So under New Labour the issue of invasion of privacy remained high on the agenda. Commenting on press reports on Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's affair with his secretary, Labour's Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, suggested in the early days of the New Labour Administration that there should be formalized protection of privacy with the PCC given effective powers and remedies. All campaigners for freedom of speech have always argued strongly against such 'prior restraint' and Irvine was duly

given a well-deserved kicking by the British press and the usually restrained Lord Wakeham, Chairman of the PCC, expressed his disquiet about the Lord Chancellor's Human Rights Bill, which has now become the Human Rights Act, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. Downing Street was quick to dissociate itself from Irvine's statement, assuring the press that there was no intention of introducing legislation on privacy. However, Article 8 of the European Convention may well come to be interpreted by the judges as in effect affording protection of privacy - thus 'prior restraint' on the freedom of the press - although Article 10 guarantees the freedom of the press. Furthermore, Downing Street's statement seems disingenuous at best, given that the new government's Data Protection Bill had already had its second reading in Parliament. The Bill is intended to implement the European Directive on the Protection of Individuals in regard to the Processing of Data and thus will bring Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, protecting 'the fundamental rights and freedoms, notably the right to privacy'. This Bill caused grave concern in the press, since its definition of 'personal data' was so broad that it could, for example, encompass Robin Cook's relationship with his secretary (now his wife) and the Bill would cover all such data held on computer, which of course would cover journalists' stories. The Bill would require disclosure by a newspaper in reply to any enquiry by an individual as to whether data are held about her and intends to give such an individual the right to require the newspaper not to use the personal data if their use may cause 'substantial damage' or 'substantial distress'. There are other clauses in the Bill which provide for exemptions of journalists, but their application will ultimately depend on the courts' interpretation of them. After the Human Rights Act entered into law, it seemed ironic that the first legal case in Britain to appeal to the right to privacy enshrined in the European convention was brought by a couple who actively courted publicity - Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. They had signed an exclusive contract with OK! magazine giving the magazine the right to photograph their wedding. All other cameras were excluded, guests electronically frisked as they arrived. Somebody, however, clearly did smuggle a camera in, since Hello! magazine, OK!'s arch-rival proposed to publish photos three days before OK! OK! attempted, and failed, to prevent the publication of the photos, but Douglas and Zeta-Jones intended to sue Hello! for breach of privacy. Now that might seem a pretty odd claim, given that they appeared to have sold their right to privacy to OK! However, the appeal court agreed with them that, since they had insisted on having full editorial control over the choice of photos, they had in fact retained the right to privacy since they would have been able to maintain control of the way in which their image was presented. The appeal court ruled that they had a reasonable chance of winning and allowed their suit to proceed. In June 2001, Heather Mills, at the time Paul McCartney's girlfriend, failed in a bid to prevent the Sun from revealing the address of a house she had bought in Hove, even though e-mails she had received had led her to believe that she was in danger. In that case the judge took into account that it was well-known that Miss Mills already lived in Hove and that her new address was bound to become known simply because she was well-known and lived in a busy town.

Around the same time, it was ruled by the High Court that no British media outlet would ever be permitted to reveal the whereabouts of Thompson and Venables, the child killers of toddler James Bulger, who, having reached the age of 18, were due for release at that time. In July 2001 TV celebrity Amanda Holden sought an ex parte injunction against the Daily Star newspaper (an ex parte injunction is issued in the absence of one of the parties - the Daily Star in this case). She had been photographed apparently using a long lens while on holiday with her husband in a private Italian villa. Although the PCC would almost certainly have censured the use of the pictures, Ms Holden chose to go straight to court, claiming infringement of her right to privacy under the Human Rights Act. Ms Holden demanded that the Star desist from publishing the other photos it intended to publish and issued a writ demanding damages. The law relating to privacy seems currently to be a mess. There never has been any such right recognized in British common law, but the right is recognized under the European Convention. If such actions as Douglas's and Holden's are successful, especially since damages might turn out to be much higher than any fines which could be imposed by a regulatory body, then the PCC's self-regulatory code will take on a mandatory character, in effect introducing 'prior restraint', especially if a damages element is introduced. Whilst many of us might find the intrusiveness of the tabloid press unwarranted and distasteful much of the time, the effects of prior restraint could be disastrous for investigative journalism. Was the lying politician, Johnathan Aitken, on a private holiday when he was in Paris? If he was and the Human Rights Act had been law at the time, how could The Guardian legally have discovered who paid his hotel bill? How this right comes to be applied and how it will impact on the media rests in the lap of the judiciary for now. There have been complaints in the first few months since the Act became law from a variety of different celebrities. There is a distinct possibility that the press, which has escaped legislation on privacy through its relatively responsible attitude in recent years, may well have privacy legislation imposed on it, as a result of the Human Rights Act. Since the European Convention also enshrines the right to freedom of speech, it is difficult to see how these two potentially self-contradictory rights can both be safeguarded. Remit
Code of Practice

The PCC operate a Code of Practice which covers the following:

accuracy - newspapers and periodicals should endeavour to print accurate reports; if it transpires that a report was inaccurate, they should publish a correction and an apology where appropriate; where the newspaper has been the subject of an action for defamation, that should be reported; opportunity to reply - individuals and organisations should be given a fair opportunity to reply when reasonable; comment, conjecture and fact - there should be a clear distinction between conjecture and the reporting of facts;

privacy - there should not normally be intrusion into people's private lives and there should be no long-lens photos of people on private property. The 'public interest' is justification for so doing; listening devices - 'bugs' should not normally be used. The 'public interest' is a justification for their use; hospitals - permission should be obtained before a journalist reports from a hospital; the privacy restrictions also apply here; misrepresentation - journalists should not normally misrepresent themselves in order to obtain information; documents and photos should not be removed without the owner's position. The 'public interest' is justification only if material cannot be obtained by other means; harassment - journalists should not intimidate or harass. The 'public interest' provides justification for photography, persistent telephoning, remaining on property when asked to leave etc; payment for articles - no offers of payment should be made to witnesses or potential witnesses in a current criminal matter, nor to people engaged in crime. The 'public interest' provides an exception; intrusion into grief or shock - this should not happen unless the public has a right to know; interviewing or photographing children - not normally if under 16, except with permission of parents/guardians; should not be approached or photographed at school without permission; children in sex cases - victims under 16 not to be identified, even if the law does allow it; adult in a sex offence against a child should be identified - term 'incest' not to be used - offence to be described as 'serious offences against young children' or similar - child not to be identified - nothing in report should imply relationship between child and accused; victims of crime - not to be identified, unless law permits it discrimination - should avoid prejudicial reference to race, colour, sex, religion, sexual orientation, physical illness, mental handicap; should avoid publishing details of such matters unless of direct relevance; financial journalism - information received not to be used for own profit, nor passed on to others, even if not illegal; should not write about shares etc. in which they have an interest without informing editor; should not buy or sell shares etc. which they have written about in recent past or will write about in near future; confidential sources - should be protected; public interest

Who may complain? The PCC will normally consider complaints from those people directly affected. It may sometimes consider complaints from third parties. The PCC will not consider complaints which are the subject of court proceedings, nor complaints which the complainant intends to take to court. Complaints are normally accepted only within one month of the publication of the subject of the complaint. Normally, the PCC will expect that the matter will have been taken up with the appropriate editor before the PCC is approached.

Complaints may normally be made only about matters covered by the Code of Practice. Dealing with complaints Complaints are normally dealt with on paper, with no formal hearings. Complaints are first sent to the relevant editor in the hope that the complaint can be resolved. If it is not resolved, the PCC will invite comment from the editor and sometimes from a third party. A report is then considered at the PCC's monthly meeting. The PCC's adjudication is then sent to all parties. The newspaper or magazine is required to publish the adjudication when a complaint is upheld. Publication is not required in cases of intrusion into privacy or something which may allow the identification of children.

Regulation and censorship contents list

Introduction to Mass Media Effects Glossary of media studies terms