- - Mass media in Great Britain - ()

Mass media in Great Britain - ()

: 2006.


In every modern country, regardless of the form of the government, the press, radio and television are political weapons of tremendous power, and few things are so indicative of the nature of a government as the way in which that power is exercised. While studying the politics of any country, it is important not only to understand the nature of the social, economic, political or any other divisions of the population but also to discover what organs of public and political opinion are available for the expression of the various interests. Although the press in this or that country is legally free, the danger lies in the fact that the majority of people are not aware of the ownership. The press in fact is controlled by a comparatively small number of persons. Consequently, when the readers see different newspapers providing the same news and expressing similar opinions they are not sure that the news, and the evaluation of the news, are determined by a single group of people, perhaps even by one person. In democratic countries it has long been assumed that government ought, in general, to do what their people want them to do.

The growth of radio and particularly of television is as important in providing news as the press. They provide powerful means of capturing public attention. But while private enterprise predominates in the publishing fields in Great Britain, radio broadcasting monopoly, as was television until late in 1955. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a public organisation, still provides all radio programmes.

    Main Part
    The Press
    National Daily and Sunday Papers

In a democratic country like Great Britain the press, ideally, has three political functions: information, discussion and representation. It is supposed to give the voter reliable and complete information to base his judgement. It should let him know the arguments for and against any policy, and it should reflect and give voice to the desires of the people as a whole. Naturally, there is no censorship in Great Britain, but in 1953 the Press Council was set up. It is not an official body but it is composed of the people nominated by journalists, and it receives complaints against particular newspapers. It may make reports, which criticise papers, but they have no direct effects. The British press means, primarily, a group of daily and Sunday newspapers published in London. They are most important and known as national in the sense of circulating throughout the British Isles. All the national newspapers have their central offices in London, but those with big circulations also print editions in Manchester (the second largest press center in Britain) and Glasgow in Scotland.

Probably in no other country there are such great differences between the various national daily newspapers in the type of news they report and the way they report it. All the newspapers whether daily or Sunday, totalling about twenty, can be divided into two groups: quality papers and popular papers. Quality papers include The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph. Very thoroughly they report national and international news.

In addition to the daily and Sunday papers, there is an enormous number of weeklies, some devoted to specialised and professional subjects, others of more general interest. Three of them are of special importance and enjoy a large and influential readership. They are: the Spectator (which is non-party but with Conservative views), the New Statesman (a radical journal, inclining towards the left wing of the Labour Party) and the largest and most influentialthe Economist (politically independent). These periodicals resemble one another in subject matter and layout. They contain articles on national and international affairs, current events, the arts, letters to the Editor, extensive book reviews. Their publications often exert a great influence on politics.

The distinction between the quality and the popular papers is one primarily of educational level. Quality papers are those newspapers which are intended for the well educate. All the rest are generally called popular newspapers. The most important of them are the News of the World, The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express.

The two archetypal popular papers, the Daily Mail and Daily Express were both built by individual tycoons in the early 20thcentury. Both had a feeling for the taste of a newly-literate public: if a man bites a dog, thats a news. The Daily Express was built up by a man born in Canada. He became a great man in the land, a close friend and associate of Winston Churchill, and a powerful minister in his War Cabinet. The circulation of The Daily Express at one time exceeded four million copies a day. Now the first Lord Beaverbrook is dead, and the daily sales are not much more than half of their highest figure. The history of the Daily Mail, with its conventional conservatism, is not greatly different.

The popular newspapers tend to make news sensational. These papers concentrate on more emotive reporting of stories often featuring the Royal Family, film and pop stars, and sport. They publish personal articles which shock and excite. Instead of printing factual news reports, these papers write them up in an exciting way, easy to read, playing on peoples emotions. They avoid serious political and social questions or treat them superficially. Trivial events are treated as the most interesting and important happenings. Crime is always given far more space than creative, productive or cultural achievements. Much of their information concerns the private lives of people who are in the news. The popular newspapers are very similar to one another in appearance and general arrangement, with big headlines and the main news on the front page. This press is much more popular than the quality press.

In some countries, newspapers are owned by government or by political parties. This is not the case in Britain. Newspapers here are mostly owned by individuals or by publishing companies, and the editors of the papers are usually allowed considerate freedom of expression. This is not to say that newspapers are without political bias. Papers like The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, for example, usually reflect Conservative opinions in their comment and reporting, while the Daily Mirror and The Guardian have a more left-wing bias. In addition to the 12 national daily newspapers there are nine national papers which published on Sundays. The quality Sunday papers devote large sections to literature and the arts. They have colour supplements and are in many ways more like magazines than newspapers. They supply quite different world of taste and interest from the popular papers. Most of the Sundays contain more reading matter than daily papers, and several of them also include colour-supplementsseparate colour magazines which contain photographically-illustrated feature articles. Reading a Sunday paper, like having a big Sunday lunch, is an important tradition in many British households.

    Local and Regional Papers

Besides, nearly every area in Britain has one or more local newspapers.


Local morning papers have suffered from the universal penetration of London-based national press. Less than 20 survive in the whole England, and their combined circulation is much less than that of The Sun alone. Among local daily papers those published in the evenings are much more important. Each of about 70 towns has one, selling only within a radius of 50 to 100 kilometers. The two London evening papers, the News and Standard, together sold two million copies in 1980, but they could not survive, and merged into one, now called The London Evening Standard with a circulation of 528, 700. It covers national and international news as well as local affairs. Local weeklies include papers for every district in Greater London, often in the form of local editions of an individual paper.


Wales has one daily morning newspaper, the Western Mail, published in Gardiff, with a circulation of 76, 200 throughout Wales. In north Wales the Daily Post, published in Liverpool, gives wide coverage to events in the area. Wales on Sunday, published in Cardiff, has a circulation of 53, 100. Evening papers published in Wales are the South Wales Echo, Cardiff; the South Wales Argus, Newport; The South Wales Evening Post, Swansea;

The weekly press (82 publications) includes English-language papers, some of which carry articles in Welsh; bilingual papers; and Welsh-language papers. Welsh community newspapers receive an annual grant as part of the Governments wider financial support for the Welsh language. Scotland

Scotland has six morning, six evening and four Sunday newspapers. Local weekly newspapers number 115. The daily morning papers, with circulations of between 85, 900 and 740, 000, are The Scotsman; the Herald; the Daily Record. The daily evening papers have circulations in the range of 10, 400 to 164, 330 and are the Evening News of Edinburgh, Glasgows Evening Times, Dundees Evening Telegraph, Aberdeens Evening Express, the Greenock Telegraph The Sunday papers are the Sunday Mail, the Sunday Post , the Scottish Sunday Express (printed in Manchester) as well as quality broadsheet paper.

    Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has two morning newspapers, one evening and three Sunday papers, all published in Belfast with circulations ranging from 20, 000 to 170, 567. They are the News Letter, the Sunday News, the Sunday World. There are bout 45 weekly papers.

Most local daily papers belong to one or other of the bog press empires, which leave their local editors to decide editorial policy. Mostly they try to avoid any appearance of regular partisanship, giving equal weight to each major political party. They give heavy weight to local news and defend local interests and local industries.

The total circulation of all provincial daily newspapers, morning and evening together, is around eight million: about half as great as that of the national papers. In spite of this, some provincial papers are quite prosperous. They do not need their own foreign correspondents; they receive massive local advertising, particularly about things for sale.

The truly local papers are weekly. They are not taken very seriously, being mostly bought for the useful information contained in their advertisements. But for a foreign visitor wishing to learn something of the flavour of a local community, the weekly local paper can be useful. Some of these papers are now given away, not sold out but supported by the advertising.

The four most famous provincial newspapers are The Scotsman (Edinburg), the Glasgow herald, the Yorkshire Post (Leeds) and the Belfast Telegraph, which present national as well as local news. Apart from these there are many other daily, evening and weekly papers published in cities and smaller towns. The present local news and are supported by local advertisements.

    The Weekly, Periodical and Daily Press

Good English writing is often to be found in the weekly political and literary journals, all based in London, all with nationwide circulations in the tens of thousands. The Economist, founded in 1841, probably has no equal everywhere. It has a coloured cover and a few photographs inside, so that it look like Time or Newsweek, but its reports have more depth and breadth than any these. It covers world affair, and even its American section is more informative about America than its American equivalents. Although by no means popular, it is vigorous in its comments, and deserves the respect in which it is generally held. Spectator is a weekly journal of opinion. It regularly contains well-written articles, often politically slanted. It devotes nearly half its space to literature and the arts.

Glossy weekly or monthly illustrated magazines cater either for women or for any of a thousand special interests. Almost all are based in London, with national circulations, and the womens magazines sell millions of copies. These, along with commercial television, are the great educators of demand for the new and better goods offered by the modern consumer society. In any big newsagents shop the long rows of brightly covered magazines seem to go on for ever; beyond the large variety of appeals to women and teenage girls come those concerned with yachting, tennis, model railways, gardening and cars. For every activity there is a magazine, supported mainly by its advertisers, and from time to time the police brings a pile of pornographic magazines to local magistrates, who have the difficult task of deciding whether they are sufficiently offensive to be banned.

These specialist magazines are not cheap. They live on an infinite variety of taste, curiosity and interest. Their production, week by week and month by month, represents a fabulous amount of effort and of felled trees. Television has not killed the desire to read.

The best-known among the British national weekly newspapers are as follows. The Times (1785) is called the paper of the Establishment. The Times has three weekly supplements, all appeared and sold separately. The Literary Supplement is devoted almost entirely to book reviews, and covers all kinds of new literature. It makes good use of academic contributors, and has at last, unlike The Economist, abandoned its old tradition of anonymous reviews. New Scientist published by the company which owns the Daily Mirror, has good and serious articles about scientific research, often written by academics yet useful for the general reader. This paper is most famous of all British newspapers. Politically it is independent, but is generally inclined to be sympathetic to the Conservative Party. It is not a government organ, though very often its leading articles may be written after private consultation with people in the Government. It has a reputation for extreme caution, though it has always been a symbol of solidity in Britain. Its reporting is noted for reliability and completeness and especially in foreign affairs. Its reputation for reflecting or even anticipating government policy gives it an almost official tone.

The popular newspapers are now commonly called tabloids. This word first used for pharmaceutical substances compressed into pills. The tabloid newspapers compress the news, and are printed on small sheets of paper. They use enormous headlines for the leading items of each day, which are one day political, one day are to do with a crime, one day sport, one day some odd happening. They have their pages of political report and comment, short, often over-simplified but vigorously written and (nowadays) generally responsible. They thrive on sensational stories and excitement.

The Guardian (until 1959-The Manchester Guardian) has become a truly national paper rather than one specially connected with Manchester. In quality, style and reporting it is nearly equal with The Times. In politics it is described as radical. It was favourable to the Liberal Party and tends to be rather closer in sympathy to the Labour party than to the Conservatives. It has made great progress during the past years, particularly among the intelligent people who find the Times too uncritical of the Establishment. The Daily Telegraph (1855) is the quality paper with the largest circulation (1. 2 million compared with The Timess 442 thousand and The Guardians 500 thousand). In theory it is independent, but in practice it is such caters for the educated and semi-educated business and professional classes. Being well produced and edited it is full of various information and belongs to the same class of journalism as The Times and The Guardian. In popular journalism the The Daily Mirror became a serious rival of the Express and Mail in the 1940s. It was always tabloid, and always devoted more space to picture than to text. It was also a pioneer with strip cartoons. After the Second World War it regularly supported the Labour Party. It soon outdid the Daily Express in size of headlines, short sentences and exploration of excitement. It also became the biggest-selling daily newspaper. For many years its sales were about four million; sometimes well above. The daily papers have no Sunday editions, but there are Sunday papers, nearly all of which are national: The Sunday Times (1822, 1. 2 million), The Sunday Telegraph (1961, 0. 7 million), the Sunday Express (1918, 2. 2 million), The Sunday Mirror (1963, 2. 7 million).

On weekdays there are evening papers, all of which serve their own regions only, and give the latest news. London has two evening newspapers, The London Standard and The Evening News.

Traditionally the leading humorous periodical in Britain is Punch, best known for its cartoons and articles, which deserve to be regarded as typical examples of English humour. It has in recent years devoted increasing attention to public affairs, often by means of its famous cartoons. This old British satirical weekly magazine, survives, more abrasive than in an earlier generation yet finding it hard to keep the place it once had in a more secure social system. Its attraction, particularly for one intellectual youth, has been surpassed by a new rival, Private Eye, founded in 1962 by people who, not long before, had run a pupils magazine in Shrewsbury School. Its scandalous material is admirably written on atrocious paper and its circulation rivals that of The Economist.

    Advertising Practice

Advertising in all non-broadcast media such as newspapers, magazines, posters (and also direct mail, sales promotions, cinema, and management of lists and databases) is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority, an independent body funded by a levy on display advertising expenditure. The Authority aims to promote and enforce the highest standards of advertising in the interests of the public through its supervision of the British Code of Advertising Practise. The basic principles of the Code are to ensure that advertisements: Are legal, decent, honest and truthful;

Are prepared with a sense of responsibility to the consumer and society; and Conform to the principles of fair competition as generally accepted in business.

The Authority includes among its activities monitoring advertisements to ensure their compliance with the Code and investigating complaints received directly from members of the public and competitors.

The advertising industry has agreed to abide by the Code and to back it up with effective sanctions. Free and confidential pre-publication advice is offered to assist publishers, agencies and advertisers. The Authoritys main sanction is the recommendation that advertisements considered to be in breach of the Code should not be published. This is normally sufficient to ensure that an advertisement is withdrawn or amended. The Authority also publishes monthly reports on the results of its investigations, naming the companies involved.

The Authority is recognised by the Office of Fair Trading as being the established means of controlling non-broadcast advertising. The Authority can refer misleading advertisements to the Director General of Fair Trading, who has the power to seek an injunction to prevent their publication.

    News Agencies

The principal news agencies in Britain are Reuters, an international news organisation registered in London, the Press Association and Extel Financial.


The oldest is Reuters which was founded in 1851. The agency employs some 540 journalists and correspondents in seventy countries and has links with about 120 national or private news agencies. The information of general news, sports, and economic reports is received in London every day and is transmitted over a network links and cable and radio circuits.

Reuters is a publicly owned company, employing 10, 335 full-time staff in 79 countries. It has 1, 300 staff journalists and photographers. The company served subscribers in 132 countries, including financial institutions; commodities houses; traders in currencies, equities and bonds; major corporations; government agencies; news agencies; newspapers; and radio and television stations.

Reuters has developed the worlds most extensive private leased communications network to transmit its services. It provides the media with general, political, economic, financial and sports news, news pictures and graphics, and television news. Services for business clients comprise constantly updated price information and news, historical information, facilities for computerised trading, and the supply of communications and other equipment for the financial dealing rooms. Information is distributed through video terminals and tele-printers. Reuters is the major shareholder in Visnews, a television news agency whose service reaches over 650 broadcasters in 84 countries.

    The Press Association

The Press Association - the British and Irish national news agency is co-operatively owned by the principal daily newspapers of Britain outside London, and the Irish Republic. It offers national and regional newspapers and broadcasters a comprehensive range of home newsgeneral and parliamentary news, legal reports, and all types of financial, commercial and sports news. It also includes in its services to regional papers the world news from Reuters and Associated Press.

News is sent by satellite from London by the Press Association, certain items being available in Dataformat as cameraready copy. Its Newsfile operation provides general news, sports and foreign news on screen to non-media as well as media clients by means of telephone and view data terminals. The photographic department offers newspapers and broadcasters a daily service of pictures. The News Features service supplies repoerts of local or special interest and grants exclusive rights to syndicated features. It also offers a dial-in graphics facility, as well as extensive cuttings and photograph libraries.

    Extel Financial

Extel Financial supplies information and services to financial and business communities throughout the world. Based in London, it has a network of offices in Europe and the United States and direct representation in Japan and South-East Asia. Data is collected from all the worlds major stock exchanges, companies and the international press. The agency is a major source of reference material on companies and securities. It supplies a full range of data products on international financial matters. Up-to-the-minutes business and company news is bade available by the agencys specialist financial news operations.

    Other Agencies

The British press and broadcasting organisations are also catered for by Associated Press and United Press International, which are British subsidiaries of United States news agencies. A number of other British, Commonwealth and foreign agencies and news services have offices in London, and there are minor agencies in other city. Syndication of features is not as common in Britain as in some countries, but a few agencies specialise in this type of work.

    New Printing Technology

The heavy production costs of newspapers and periodicals continue to encourage publishers to look for ways of reducing these costs, often by using advanced computer system to control editing and production processes. The Front end or single stroking system, for example, allows journalists or advertising staff to input copy directly into video terminal, and then to transform it automatically into computer-set columns of type. Although it is possible for these columns to be assembled electronically on a page-sized screen, turned into a full page, and made automatically into a plate ready for transfer to the printing press, at present very few such systems are in operation. Most involve the production of bromides from the computer setting; there are then pasted up into columns before being places in a platemaking machine. The most advanced system presents opportunities for reorganisation, which have implications throughout a newspaper office and may give rise to industrial relations problems. Generally, and most recently in the case of national newspapers, the introduction of computerised system has led to substantial reduction in workforces, particularly, but not solely, among print workers. All the national newspapers use computer technology, and its use in the provincial press, which has generally led the way in adopting news techniques, is widespread. Journalists key articles directly into, and edit them on, computer terminals; colour pictures and graphics are entered into the same system electronically. Where printing plants are at some distance from editorial offices, pages are sent for printing by fax machine from typesetter to print plant. Other technological development include the use of full-colour printing, and a switch from traditional letterpress printing to the web-offset plastic-plate processes.

News International, publisher of the three daily and two Sunday papers, has at its London Docklands headquarters more than 500 computer terminals - one of the largest system installed at one time anywhere in the world. The Financial Times opened a new printing plants in Dockland in 1988 with about 200 production workers, compared with the 650 employed at its former printing facility in the City of London. The new Docklands plant of the Associated Newspapers Group uses flexography, a rudder-plate process. Other national papers have also moved into the new computer-based printing plants outside Fleet Street.

    Radio and Television

British broadcasting has traditionally been based on the principle that it is a public service accountable to the people through Parliament. Following 1990 legislation, it is also embracing the principles of competition and choice. Three public bodies are responsible for television and radio services throughout

    Britain. They are:

the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcasts television and radio services;

the Independent Television Commission (ITC) licenses and regulates non-BBC television services, including cable and satellite services, and; the Radio Authority licenses and regulates all non-BBC radio services.

Since the 1970s 98% of British households have had television sets able to receive four channels, two put out by the BBC, two by commercial companies. Commercial satellite and cable TV began to grow significantly in 19891990, and by 1991 the two main companies operating in Britain had joined together as British Sky Broadcasting. By 1991 about one household in ten had the equipment to receive this material.

Every household with TV must by law pay for a license, which costs about the same for a year as a popular newspaper every day.

Unlike the press, mass broadcasting has been subject to some state control from its early days. One agreed purpose has been to ensure that news, comment and discussion should be balanced and impartial, free of influence by government or advertisers. From 1926 first radio, then TV as well, were entrusted to the BBC, which still has a board of governors appointed by the government. The BBCs monopoly was ended in 1954, when an independent board was appointed by the Home Secretary to give licenses to broadcast (franchises) to commercial TV companies financed by advertising, and called in general independent television (ITV). These franchises have been given only for a few years at a time, then renewed subject to various conditions.

In 1990 Parliament passed a long and complex new Broadcasting Act which made big changes in the arrangements for commercial TV and radio. The old Independent Broadcasting Authority, which had given franchises to the existing TV and radio companies, was abolished. In its place, for TV alone, a new Independent Television Commission was set up in 1991, with the task of awarding future franchises, early in the 1990s, either to the existing companies or to new rivals which were prepared to pay a higher price. The Commission also took over responsibility for licensing cable programme services, including those satellite TV channels which are carried on cable networks. The new law did not change the status of the BBC, but it did have the purpose of increasing competition, both among broadcasters and among producers. It envisaged that a new commercial TV channel, TV5, would start in the early 1990s. The general nature of the four TV channels functioning in 1991, seems likely to continue, with BBC1 and ITV producing a broadly similar mixture of programmes in competition with each other. ITV has a complex structure. Its main news is run by one company, Independent Television News, its early morning TVa. m. by another. There are about a dozen regional companies which broadcast in their regions for most each day, with up to ten minutes of advertisements in each hour, between programmes or as interruptions at intervals of twenty or thirty minutes. These regional companies produce some programmes of local interest and some which they sell to other regions, so that for much of each day the same material is put out all through the country. Some of BBC1s progarmmes are similarly produced by its regional stations. BBC2 and the independent Channel 4 (which has its own company) are both used partly for special interest programmes and for such things as complete operas.


The Corporations board of 12 governors, including the chairman, vice-chairman and national governors for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Government. The board of governors is responsible for all aspects of broadcasting on the BBC. The governors appoint the Director-General, the Corporations chief executive officer, who heads the board of management, the body in charge of the daily running of the services.

The BBC has a strong regional structure. The three English regions BBC North, BBC Midlands & East and BBC South and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland national regions make programmes for their local audiences as well as contributing to the national network. The National Broadcasting Councils for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland give advice on the policy and content of television and radio programmes intended mainly for reception in their areas. Local radio councils representatives of the local community advise on the development and operation of the BBCs local radio stations.


The domestic services of the BBC are financed principally from the sale of television licences. Households with television must buy an annual licence costing? 80 for colour and ? 26. 50 for black and white. More than two-thirds of expenditure on domestic services relates of television.

Licence income is supplemented by profits from trading activities, such as television programme exports, sale of recordings and publications connected with BBC programmes, hire and sale of educational films, film library sales, and exhibitions based on programmes. The BBC meets the cost of its local radio stations. BBC World Service radio is financed by grand-in-aid from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, while BBC World Service television is self-funding. In 1991 the BBC took over from the Home Office responsibility for administering the television licensing system. Since 1988 annual rises in the licence see have been linked to the rate of inflation; this is intended further to improve the BBCs efficiency and encourage it to continue to develop alternative sources of revenue.

    BBC National Radio

The BBC has five national radio channels for listeners in the United Kingdom. Radio (channel) 1 provides mainly a programme of rock and pop music. Radio 2 broadcasts lights music and entertainment, comedy as well as being the principal channel for the coverage of sport. Radio 3 provides mainly classical music as well as drama, poetry and short stories, documentaries, talks on ancient and modern plays and some education programmes. Radio 4 is the main speech network providing the principals news and current affairs service, as well as drama, comedy, documentaries and panel games. It also carries parliamentary and major public events. BBC 5 (on medium wave only), which is devoted chiefly to sport, education and programmes for young people. The BBC has over 30 local radio stations and about 50 commercial independent stations distributed throughout Britain. To provide high-quality and wide-ranging programmes that inform, educate and entertain, to provide also greater choice and competition the government encourages the growth of additional radio services run on commercial lines.

Besides these domestic programmes, the BBC broadcasts in England and in over 40 other languages to every part of the world. It is the World Service of the BBC. Its broadcasts are intended to provide a link of culture, information and entertainment between the peoples of the United Kingdom and those in other parts of the world. The main part of the World Service programme is formed by news bulletins, current affairs, political commentaries, as well as sports, music, drama, etc. In general, the BBC World Service reflects British opinion and the British way of life. The BBC news bulletins and other programmes are re-broadcasted by the radio services of many countries.

    BBC World Service Radio

The BBC World Service broadcasts by radio worldwide, using English and 37 other languages, for 820 hours a week. The main objectives are to give unbiased news, reflect British opinion and project British life, culture and developments in science and industry. News bulletins, current affairs programmes, political commentaries and topical magazine programmes form the main part of the output. These are supplemented by a sports service, music, drama and general entertainment. Regular listeners are estimated to number 120 million. The languages in which the World Service broadcasts and the length of time each is on the air are prescribed by the Government. Otherwise the BBC has full responsibility and is completely independent in determining the content of news and other programmes.

There are broadcasts by radio for 24 hours a day in English, supplemented at peak listening times by programmes of special interest to Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Falkland Islands. BBC World Service news bulletins and other programmes are re-broadcast by some 45450 radio and cable stations in over 80 countries, which receive the programmes by satellite. Two World Service departments also specialise in supplying radio material for re-broadcast. BBC transcription sells recordings to more than 100 countries, while BBC Topical Tapes airmails some 250 tapes of original programmes to subscribers in over 50 countries each week. BBC English is the most extensive language-teaching venture in the world. English lessons are broadcasted daily by radio with explanations in some 30 languages, including English, and re-broadcast by many radio stations. BBC English television programmes are also shown in more than 90 countries. A range of printed, audio and video material accompanies these programmes. Another part of the World Service, BBC Monitoring, listens to and reports on foreign broadcasts, providing a daily flow of significant news and comment from overseas to the BBC and the Government. This information is also sold to the press, private sector companies, academic staff and public bodies.

    BBC Television

The BBC has a powerful television service. It owns two channels: BBC1 and BBC2. Practically all the population of the country lives within the range of the TV transmission. With the exception of a break during the Second World War, the BBC has been providing regular television broadcasts since 1936. All BBC2 programmes and the vast majority of those on BBC1 are broadcasted on the national network. The aim of the Government is that at least 25 per cent of programmes on all channels should be made by independent producers. The BBC television programmes are designed for people of different interests. BBC1 presents more programmes of general interest, such as light entertainment, sport, current affairs, childrens programmes, as well as news and information. BBC2 provides documentaries, travel programmes, serious drama, music, programmes on pastimes and international films.

The BBC does not give publicity to any firm or company except when it is necessary to provide effective and informative programmes. It must not broadcast any commercial advertisement or any sponsored programme. Advertisements are broadcasted only on independent television, but advertisers can have no influence on programme content or editorial work. Advertising is usually limited to seven minutes in any one hour of broadcasting time. Both the BBC broadcast education programmes for children and students in schools of all kinds, as well as pre-school children, and for adults in colleges and other institutions and in their homes. Broadcasts to schools cover most subjects of the curriculum, while education programmes for adults cover many fields of learning, vocational training and recreation. The Government has no privileged access to radio or television, but government publicity to support non-political campaigns may be broadcasted on independent radio and television. Such broadcasts are paid for on a normal commercial basis. The BBC is not the mouthpiece of the government. All the major political parties have equal rights to give political broadcasts. Radio and, particularly, television have their greatest impact on public affairs at election time. Each of the principal political parties is granted time on the air roughly in proportion to the number of its candidates for the Parliament. Television and radio coverage of political matters, including elections, is required to be impartial. Extended news programmes cover all aspects of the major partiescampaigns at national level and in the constituencies. Political parties arrange photo opportunities, during which candidates are photographed in such places as factories, farms, building sites, schools and youth centers. They often use these visits to make points about party policies. Special election programmes include discussions between politicians belonging to rival parties. Often a studio audience of members of the public is able to challenge and question senior politicians. Radio phone-ins also allow ordinary callers to question, or put their views to political leaders. Broadcast coverage also includes interviews with leading figures from all the parties, reports focusing on particular election issues, and commentaries from political journalists.

Arrangements for the broadcasts are made between the political parties and the broadcasting authorities, but editorial control of the broadcasts rests with the parties.

Television and the other channels of mass media are playing an increasingly important part in bringing contemporary affairs to the general public. Radio and television programmes for the week are published in the BBC periodical, Radio Times. The BBC publishes another weekly periodical, The Listener, in which a selection of radio and TV talks are printed. By international standards it could reasonably be claimed that the four regular channels together provide an aboveaverage service, with the balance giving something to please most tastes and preferences. Some quiz-shows and soap operas, or long-running sagas, attract large numbers of viewers and to some extent the BBC competes for success in this respect. But minority preferences are not overlooked. In Wales there are Welsh-language programmes for the few who want them. There are foreign language lessons for the general public, as well as the special programmes for schools and the Open University. BBC news has always kept a reputation for objectivity, and the independent news service is of similar quality.

Television is probably the most important single factor in the continuous contest for the publics favour between the political parties. Parties and candidates cannot buy advertising time. At intervals each channel provides time for each of the three main political parties for party-political broadcasts, and during an election campaign a great deal of time is provided for parties election, always on an equal basis. Minor parties get time, based partly on the number of their candidates. In Wales and Scotland the nationalist parties get TV time on the same basis as the three others. Studios and transmitters must be provided free of charge. But often a party prefers to film a broadcast outside the studio at its own expense, for greater impact.

BBC TV Europe broadcasts some of its own programmes by satellite, and from 1991 BBC TV International began to sell and distribute its World Service TV news in English and some other languages.

BBC domestic services are financed almost exclusively by the sale of annual television licenses; World Service radio is financed from a government grant, while World Service Television is self-funding. Popular television drama programs produced for the BBC are shown in America and many other countries around the world.

    BBC World Service Television

BBC World Service Television was set up in 1991 to establish a worldwide television service. The BBC has generated its own funding fir this operation. The company at present provides three services:

A subscription channel in Europe, based on mixture of BBC1 and BBC2 programmes, news bulletins, and weather and business reports. Viewers receive the service by cable or direct to their homes, using special decoders.

A 24-hour news and information channel which is available throughout Asia, launched in November 1991. Funded by advertising, the service is one of the channels offered throughout Asia by the commercial company STAR TV. The cannel is compiled by the BBC and transmitted by satellite to the ground station in Hong Kong, where advertising is added by STAR TV before distribution. A news and information channel in Africa, launched in April 1992. The service is available to viewers who have the appropriate satellite reception equipment and in countries where national broadcasters make the service part of their regular output.


In addition there are two independent channels: ITV (Independent Television) and Channel4, which is owned by the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority). The ITV has 15 programme companies, each serving a different part o the country. These companies get most of their money from firms who use them for advertising. The whole of ITV is controlled by the IBA. The magazine TV Times advertises all ITV programmes; ITV programmes include news, information, light entertainment and are interrupted at regular intervals by advertisements. Despite the genuine entertainment that so many of the good commercials afford, television still succeeds in crushing its viewers with ads that are too annoying, too often, and just too much. Very often commercials are infuriating as well as irresistible. Commercials are the heavy tribute that the viewer must pay to the sponsor in exchange for often doubtful pleasure. The first regular commercial ITV programmes began in London in 1955.

    ITV Programme Companies

The companies operate on commercial basis, deriving most of their revenue from the sale of advertising tome. The financial resources, advertising revenue and programme production of the companies vary considerably, depending largely on the size of population in the areas in which they operate. Although newspapers may acquire an interest in programme companies, there are safeguards to ensure against concentration of media ownership, thereby protecting the public interest.

Each programme company plans the content of the programmes to be broadcast in its area. These are produced by the company itself, or by other programme companies or bought from elsewhere. The five largest companiestwo serving London and three serving north-west England, the Midlands and Yorkshiresupply more programmes for brascast elsewhere on the national network than do the smaller ones.

A common news service is provided 24 hours a day by Independent Television News (ITN).

    ITV Programmes

The first regular ITV programmes began in London in 1955. ITV programmes are broadcasting 24 hours a day in all parts of the country. About one-third of the output comprises informative programmesnews, documentaries, and programmes on current affairs, education and religion. The remainder coversport, comedy, drama, game shows, films, and a range of other programmes with popular appeal. Over half the programmes are produced by the programme companies and ITN.

    Channel 4 and S4C

Channel 4 forms part of the independent television network and provides a national TV service throughout Britain, except in Wales, which has a corresponding service in Welsh.

Channel 4, currently a subsidiary of the ITC, began broadcasting in 1982. It provides a national television service throughout Britain, except in Wales, which has a corresponding serviceSianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C). It is required to present programmes that are complementary to those of ITV, appealing tastes and interests not normally catered for by one original independent service.

Channel 4 must present a suitable proportion of educational programmes amd encourage innovation and experiment. It commissions programmes from the ITC companies and independent producers and buys programmes in the international market. Channel 4 broadcasts for approximately 139 hours a week, about half of which are devoted to informative programmes. At present the service, including that in Wales, financed by annual subscriptions from the ITV programme companies in return for advertising time in fourth channel programmes broadcast in their own regions.

In Wales programmes on the fourth channel are run and controlled by S4C. Under the Broadcasting Act 1990 S4C became a broadcaster in its own right. Its members are appointed by the Government. S4C is required to see that a significant proportion of programming; in practice 23 hours a week, is in the Welsh language and that programmes broadcast between 18: 30 and 22: 00 hours are mainly in welsh. At other times S4C transmits national Channel 4 programmes. Under the 1990 Act the distinctive remit of Channel 4 and S4C has been strengthened and the services are guaranteed by special arrangements to protect revenue levels. From January 1993:

Channel 4 was to become a public corporation, licensed and regulated by the ITC, selling its own advertising time and retaining the proceed; S4C was to be financed by the Government rather than by a levy from ITV.


The BBC and independent television each operate a teletext service, offering constantly updated information on a variety of subjects, including news, sport, travel, local weather conditions and entertainment. The teletext system allows the television signal to carry additional information which can be selected and displayed as pages of text and graphics on receivers equipped with the necessary decoders. Both Ceefax, the BBCs service, and Oracle, the independent televisions service, have a subtitling facility on certain programmes for people with hearing difficulties. Both services are available whenever the transmitters are on the air. Nearly 40 per cent of households in Britain have teletext sets and over 7 million people turn to the service daily: more than most daily newspapers. The broadcasting Act 1990 introduces a new regulatory system for licensing spare capacity within the television signal. This allows more varied use of spare capacity data transfer, for instance but the position of teletext on commercial television is safeguarded. At the end of 1991 the ITC advertised three teletext licences a single public service licence for teletext on Channels 3 and 4 (andS4C) and two separate licences for commercial additional services to subscription or closed user groups.

    Broadcasting by Satellite

Direct broadcasting by satellite, by which television pictures are transmitted directly by satellite into peoples homes, has been available throughout Britain since 1989. The signals from satellite broadcasting are receivable using specially designed aerials or dishes and associated reception equipment.

Several British based satellite television channels have been set up supply programmes to cable operators on Britain and, in many cases, throughout Europe. British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) carries channels devoted to light entertainment, news, feature films and sport, transmitted from the Astra and Marcopolo satellites. Each Astra satellite can transmit 16 channels, simultaneously. Two satellites are operational so far, with more planned, and provide about 18 channels in England. Other channels broadcast sport, general entertainment for women, and a service for children. MTV is a pop video channel. The Marcopolo satellite carries BskyB broadcasts made under contract to the ITC in the five DBS channels allocated to Britain under international agreement.

    Educational Broadcasting

Both the BBC and independent television broadcast educational programmes for schools and continuing education programmes for adults. Broadcasts to schools deal with most subjects of the National Curriculum, while education programmes for adults cover many fields of learning and vocational training. Supporting material, in the form of books, pamphlets, filmstrips, computer software, and audio and video cassettes, is available to supplement the programmes. Each year the BBC Open University Production Centre produces around 350 radio and audio programmes and 200 television and video programmes made specially for students of the Open University. The Centre also produces educational and training video materials in collaboration with external agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education. The ITC has a duty to ensure that schools programmes are presented on independent television.


Advertisements are broadcast on independent television and radio between programmes as well as in breaks during programmes. Advertisers are not allowed directly to influence programme content or editorial control. In television, food manufacturers and retailers are the largest category of advertisers. Advertisements must be clearly distinguishable and separate from programmes. The time given to them must not be so great as to detract from the value of the programmes as a medium of information, education or entertainment. Television advertising is limited to an average of seven minutes an hour throughout the day and seven a half minutes in the peak evening viewing period. Advertising is prohibited in religious services and in broadcasts to schools. Independent televisions teletext service carries paginated advertisements.

    Parliamentary and Political Broadcasting

The proceeding of both Houses of Parliament may be broadcasted on television and radio, either live, or more usually in recorded and edited form on news and current affairs programmes.

The proceedings of the House of Commons have been televised since 1989. They are produced by an independent company appointed by the House of Commons, which makes television pictures available to the BBC, ITN and other approved broadcasters for use in news and current affairs programmes. House of Lords proceedings have been televised since 1985.

The BBC and the commercial services provide time on radio and television for an annual series of party political broadcasts. Party election broadcasts are arranged following the announcement of general election. In addition, the Government may make ministerial broadcasts on radio and television, with opposition parties also being allotted broadcast time.

    COI Overseas Radio and Television Services

The Central Office and Information (COI), which provides publicity material and other information services on behalf of government departments and other public agencies, produces radio programmes for overseas. A wide range of recorded material is sent to radio stations all over the world. COI television services make available material such as documentary and magazine programmes for distribution to overseas stations.

    TV and Radio

Television viewing is Britain's most popular leisure pastime: 95 per cent of households have a colour television set and 68 per cent have a video recorder. There are four television channels, and five national and over 100 local radio stations. News laws will allow another national television channel and as many as three national commercial radio stations. Subscribers to a privately owned satellite service can receive five more television channels. A lot of air time is devoted to political, social and economic affairs. Although politicians often face tough questioning, particularly during election campaigns, broadcasters are expected to be impartial in their treatment of political controversies. Some programmes especially radio, allow members of the public to challenge politicians and other public figures on major issues. The Government is not responsible for programming content or the day-to-day conduct of the business of broadcasting. Broadcasters are free to air programs with the only limitation on their independence being the requirement that they not offend good taste.

    The Press

The British are one of the biggest newspaper-reading nations in the world. There are about 130 daily and Sunday newspapers, over 2, 000 weekly newspapers and some 7, 000 periodical publications in Britain. That's more national and regional daily newspapers for every person in Britain than in most other developed countries. The major papers, twelve national morning daily newspapers (5 qualities and 7 populars) and nine Sunday papers (4 qualities and 5 populars) are available in most parts of Britain. All the national newspapers use computer technology, and its use in the provincial press, which has generally led the way in adopting new techniques, is widespread. The press in Britain is free to comment on the matters of public interest, subject to law (including that of libel). By the open discussions of all types of goings on, it is obvious that there is no state control or censorship of the press, which caters to a variety of political views, interests and levels of education. Newspapers are almost always financially independent of any political party, but their political leanings are easily discerned.

    Mass Media in Great Britain:
    1. Britain 1993, an official handbook.

2. How Do You Do, Britain? L. S. Baranovsky, D. D. Kozikis, Minsk, SADI Agency 1997

    3. British Studies M. Pavlotsky St. -Petersburg, 1998

4. This is Great Britain L. Kolodyazhnaya IRIS PRESS, Moscow, 1999

5. British Democracy in Action Published by the Foreign And Commonwealth Office

    Sazanova Ekaterina
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© , 2012