Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Free market = free press?

We'll say much more about this, and you can already read MUCH more in the pack you got before Easter.
Remember, the basic point is that a so-called 'free market' is linked in with the concept of a 'free press'. In both cases they are defined as free from government interference/regulation. The events of 1694 (ending press licensing) and 1851 (scrapping stamp duty) are seen as creating a free press by marking the end of government interference. C&S argue this is simply tosh, but it remains a hugely influential factor in the light-touch, laissez faire regulation of the press today. RCP1's explicit statement is a very useful quote (and we'll see that the 1985 Peacock Committee (on TV) argued that the free market-created free press was a good model for broadcast regulation):
free enterprise is a prerequisite of a free press

A free market, in theory, produces a press industry which is:
  • diverse: reflects the range of opinions held by the public
  • competitive: in contrast to state monopoly, a free market ensures we get a wide number of competitors in newspaper publication
  • democratic, fourth estate: free from political control, the press exists to hold politicians and public servants to account. No issue with proprietorial intervention
This is plainly not the case. RCP1 noted this, but felt that the free market would reassert itself after the necessary state intervention during WW2 had ended. RCP2 noted the failure of the free market to correct the issues RCP1 highlighted; there was a continuing (1) lack of diversity (2) concentration of ownership (by 1961 just 3 conglomerates controlled 89% of circulation) (3) long before Murdoch invented The Sun and radically dumbed down the entire press, press standards were poor on many counts, leading to a 2nd regulator. C&S argue that advertisers were given a de facto licensing power, helping ensure a right-wing view dominated, while the notorious era of the press barons seems not to be a historical footnote given what we continue to learn about Murdoch and his access to political power.

When we study broadcast media regulation, we'll see a clear long-term trend towards deregulation, with the BBC a partial exception...

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