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Broadcasters are bound by law and their own guidelines to be impartial. Newspapers are not. At its simplest, expressed in the former Radio Authority's code of practice, it means not taking sides. But as Wilson (1996: 43) points out, ‘It is in the class of understanding which says the elephant is difficult to describe but easy to recognize’.

The notion goes back to the earliest days of broadcasting. When the British Broadcasting Company began radio news bulletins in 1922, they were compiled by and credited to a consortium of news agencies. So nervous were newspaper proprietors about the impact of this new medium that bulletins could go out only after 7pm so it wouldn't damage sales, and the coverage of ‘controversial’ matters was prohibited. In 1924 ...

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