Journalism in Britain: A Historical Introduction


Martin Conboy

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  • Back Matter
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  • Dedication

    Es war einmal ein Kind

    Das wusch sich nie das Ohr.

    Da wuchs ihm aus dem Ohr, o Schreck

    Ein kleiner Baum hervor.


    Für Lara Mathilda (nicht mehr ein Kind!)


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    This book is the fruit of a combination of solitude and solidarity. The manuscript itself may have been written in solitary confinement last Spring in the seclusion of a sabbatical semester amidst a particularly leafy Nether Edge. However, despite the isolation which marked the production of the book, it has been accompanied by the sort of collective camaraderie which I have had the good fortune to experience in all of my creative ventures. The Department of Journalism Studies which has provided me with such a stimulating professional environment over the last five years, granted me the gift of study leave which I hope is repaid by this publication and, if nothing else, will continue to fuel collegial debate on the role of academic investigations of journalism's history. Colleagues and friends John Steel and Adrian Bingham have shared enthusiasms and ideas which have emerged in the fabric of this book as well as in the shared project of the Centre for the Study of Journalism and History whose launch accompanied the completion of the manuscript. The library support staff, especially Alastair Allan, have demonstrated once again that it is the confluence of expertise, provision and plain old-fashioned friendliness which makes the library service at the University of Sheffield such a wonderful research tool. Down the years which have seen this project develop, I have learnt much from the combined wisdom of many, including Anthony Delano, John Tulloch, Jane Chapman, Brian Winston, Rob Melville, Jane Taylor, Richard Keeble, Bob Franklin, and from the patient advice of the many former and current journalists involved in the Association for Journalism Education. Beyond these shores, I must thank many colleagues especially Elliot King, Bridget Griffen-Foley, Penny O'Connell, Simon Potter, David Culbert, Jason McElligott and Annik Dubied for demonstrating the growing relevance of historically informed accounts of journalism internationally and for broadening my horizons. Mila Steele at SAGE provided the initial encouragement to develop the idea for publication and Imogen Roome brought it to fruition. I trust that the combined support of all those above is captured in these pages. If it is not, then the usual conditions apply! Students on a variety of courses have patiently watched these ideas germinate and will, I hope, find this publication of use in engaging with the historical sedimentations within contemporary journalism in Britain. For breaking the silence of each day's labours with news from the outside world, my thanks go to Simone for her ultimate demonstration of the value of solidarity intruding into solitude.

    NetherEdge, October 2010
  • Chronology

    1833The word ‘journalism’ enters the English language
    1855Final lifting of duties on newspapers, the so-called ‘taxes on knowledge’
    1855Launch of the Daily Telegraph to exploit the new market for newspapers
    1881George Newnes launches his revolutionary Tit-Bits
    1884W.T. Stead takes on the editorship of the Pall Mall Gazette
    1896Harmsworth launches the Daily Mail, which determines the future shape of journalism
    1900Influenced by the massive public success of the Daily Mail, Pearson launches the Daily Express
    1903Motor magazine launched
    1903Daily Mirror is launched, dedicated to a daily women's market
    1905Harmsworth (now Lord Northcliffe) buys the Observer
    1907National Union of Journalists formed
    1907Votes for Women first published
    1908Northcliffe buys The Times
    1910My Weekly launched as general magazine for working-class women
    1911Daily Herald started as a striker's news sheet
    1914Women's Dreadnought (Suffragettes’ official paper) launched
    1916Reuters Telegram Company restructured as Reuters Limited under wartime government control
    1918Daily Chronicle bought by Liberal Prime Minister, Lloyd George
    1922Good Housekeeping
    1922Astor buys The Times on Northcliffe's death
    1922British Broadcasting Company - John Reith appointed as General Manager
    1922The Times introduces pictures, the last mainstream newspaper to do so
    1923Sykes Committee
    1923Radio Times first published
    1924The ‘Zinoviev letter’
    1925BBC's long-wave transmitter completed at Daventry
    1925Communist Party launches the Sunday Worker, from 1930 as the Daily Worker
    1925Crawford Committee
    1926General Strike - the BBC provides news
    1927British Broadcasting Corporation
    1927Hilda Matheson Head of Talks at BBC
    1928Daily Mail‘s insurance scheme triggers circulation wars
    1929–1931Beaverbrook and Rothermere create their own United Empire Party
    1929The Week in Westminster first aired on BBC
    1929The Listener
    1930Relaunch of Daily Herald by TUC and Odhams as populist, mass-market product
    1932BBC launches its Empire Service
    1933Chistiansen revolutionizes the layout of the Daily Express
    1934Relaunch of the Daily Mirror
    1936Godfrey Winn's ‘Personality Parade’ in the Daily Mirror
    1936NUJ Code of Professional Conduct approved at annual conference
    1936Listener Research Unit launched at the BBC
    1936Ullswater Committee
    1936BBC's first experiments with television broadcasting in London
    1937Woman relaunched, reconfiguring the commercial women's press in Britain
    1937Coronation of George VI televised
    1938Picture Post - photo-illustrated reporting with a social awareness
    1941Daily Worker suppressed
    1942BBC's News Division established to co-ordinate foreign correspondence
    1944Introduction of the ‘14-day rule’ by the BBC to avoid encroaching upon discussions of legislation
    1944War Report attracts a regular audience of 10–15 million listeners
    1945‘Vote for Him’ campaign in the Daily Mirror
    1946Woman's Hour relaunched by the BBC to become its longest-running radio programme
    1946The return of television
    1949Royal Commission on the Press - recruitment, monopoly and complaints
    1951National Council for the Training of Journalists established
    1951Beveridge Report supports the BBC's continued monopoly
    1952More watch Coronation on television than listen to it on radio
    1953Press Council begins its work
    1953Daily Mirror‘s coverage of Princess Margaret's relationship with Peter Townsend marks shift in reporting of Royal Family in British press
    1953The BBC introduces its current affairs flagship Panorama
    1954Conservatives overrule Beveridge's findings and introduce Television Bill which establishes independent commercial television
    1955Launch of ITN as populist competitor to the BBC
    1956End of newsprint rationing imposed during the war
    1956Associated Rediffusion airs This Week as a populist current affairs programme
    1956Woman's Mirror
    1957Mary Stott becomes editor of the women's pages on the Guardian
    1957Cliff Michelmore and Tonight - evening topical political magazine programme
    1958Woman's Realm, Woman's Day
    1959Hugh Greene appointed as Head of News at the BBC to counter ITN's innovations
    1959Manchester Guardian becomes the Guardian and is printed in London
    1960Flair launched as consumer-lifestyle women's magazine aimed at the youth market
    1960News Chronicle begins the wave of left-leaning national newspaper closures
    1961Honey continues the youth publication trend
    1961Private Eye
    1962Sunday Times colour supplement
    1962By this point television news has become the main news source for the majority of the country
    1962Royal Commission on the Press - finances and the concentration of ownership
    1962Pilkington Committee
    1962The Scotsman becomes the first newspaper to offer a Saturday magazine supplement
    1962Telstar satellite launched
    1963Sunday Times introduces magazine-style in-depth analysis with ‘Insight’
    1963Granada broadcasts its own populist current affairs programme World in Action
    1963Television Act enforces a more robust role for the ITA in monitoring the public service remit of commercial television providers
    1964Daily Herald is latest casualty of advertising-driven newspaper market
    1965BBC World Service launched
    1966The Daily Worker becomes the Morning Star
    1966The Times puts news stories on the front page
    1967Closure of Sunday Citizen (previously Reynolds’ News)
    1967News at Ten
    1967BBC Radio Leicester becomes the first local radio station
    1967The end of anonymity for journalists on The Times
    1968BBC Radio Nottingham hosts first radio phone-in
    1968Murdoch buys the News of the World
    1968Newspaper Proprietors’ Association becomes Newspaper Publishers’ Association
    1969Nationwide - BBC's nightly news digest from around the UK
    1969BBC and ITV start regular colour broadcasting
    1969Murdoch relaunches the Sun and revolutionizes the tabloid newspaper
    1971Daily Mail merges with the tabloid Daily Sketch and becomes tabloid itself
    1971David English becomes editor of the Daily Mail
    1972British version of Cosmopolitan launched
    1972Weekend World from London Weekend Television
    1972The ITA is renamed the IBA
    1972Sound Broadcasting Act enables establishment of commercial local radio stations
    1973Frances Cairncross becomes economics correspondent on the Guardian
    1973Nottingham Evening Post first to have directly typed input from journalists
    1975Peter Preston becomes editor of the Guardian
    1975Angela Rippon becomes first regular BBC news reader
    1976First regular radio broadcasting of parliamentary debate
    1977Royal Commission on the Press - structure and performance, privacy versus access
    1978Publication of The Times and the Sunday Times suspended for 11 months
    1979Annan Committee Report published; recommends Channel 4 News with high quality PBS news provision as rival to both ITN and the BBC
    1981Murdoch buys The Times and the Sunday Times
    1981News of the World launches its popular Sunday magazine
    1981Kelvin MacKenzie becomes editor of the Sun
    1982Channel 4 News launched
    1983Andrew Neil becomes editor of the Sunday Times
    1983Breakfast television news on both the BBC and ITV
    1984Counter Information - Edinburgh-based anarchist news sheet
    1984First woman political editor on a national daily - Julia Langdon on the Daily Mirror
    1984Messenger Group dispute with the NGA over electronic publishing technology
    1985Televising of the proceedings of the House of Lords
    1985Attempt to ban Real Lives - At the Edge of the Union
    1986Peacock Report published
    1986Wapping dispute
    1986Launch of the Independent and the Sunday Sport and Today
    1987John Birt takes over at the BBC - integrates news and current affairs
    1987Conrad Black takes over the Telegraph Group
    1988The Daily Mail overtakes the Daily Mirror as the second most read paper
    1988Patsy Chapman becomes editor of the News of the World
    1988The Sun pays £1 million in libel damages to Elton John
    1988Death on the Rock broadcast
    1988–1994Broadcasting ban on Irish ‘extremists’ on ITV and the BBC
    1989Daily Express and Sunday Express are the last newspapers to leave Fleet Street
    1989Televising of the House of Commons
    1990Independent on Sunday launched - heat-set printing on cheaper paper
    1990Calcutt Commission
    1990Broadcasting Act
    1990BSkyB launched
    1991Press Complaints Commission
    1991World Service Television (BBC World) launched
    1992Paul Dacre succeeds David English as editor of the Daily Mail
    1992Publication of BBC's paper ‘Extending Choice’
    1992‘It's the Sun Wot Won It’ - general election
    1992Relaunch of a more dynamic, human-interest-oriented News at Ten
    1992The Big Breakfast on Channel 4
    1992No Fixed Abode on Granada
    1993IBA replaced by ‘lighter touch’ Independent Television Commission
    1993Channel 4 News to gain its own advertising revenue independent of ITV
    1993The Observer sold to the Guardian
    1994The Day Today - television news satire
    1994SchNEWS first published as weekly organ of radical journalism
    1994Radio Five Live
    1996Broadcasting Act established framework for digital developments, liberalized cross-ownership, introduced Broadcasting Standards Commission
    1997BBC News 24
    1997Chris Morris’ news satire Brass Eye
    1997Channel Five launched - main news at 8.30, rolling hourly bulletins, lighter and more personal emphasis
    1997The ‘journalism of attachment’ debate - Martin Bell
    1998The BBC invests £21 million in preparing news and current affairs for devolved nations
    1998Devolution for Wales and Scotland
    1999Metro launched as the first national free newspaper
    1999Indymedia emerges from Seattle G8 protests to become leading alternative news site
    2000ITV 24 Hour News
    2002The BBC ‘dumbing down’ debate
    2002BBC's digital television initiative
    2003Independent produced in tabloid format
    2003Communications Act
    2003First woman editor of a national popular daily - Rebekah Wade on the Sun – and Tonight With Trevor McDonald Launched
    2007Ofcom's ‘New News, Future News’ report


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