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 influential – the “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 20th century. Both had a feeling for the taste of a newly-literate public: if a man bites a dog, that’s 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 people’s 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-supplements” – separate 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.
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