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Role Of The Contemporary British Press Media Essay

As at 1945, there were no televisions; only radios that only played at specific times of the day and the newspapers were the only means of news communication to the public and due to circulations, the papers, (broadsheets and tabloids) were rationed to only about four to eight pages. The increase in sales of newspapers at that time was due to war (Seymour-Ure, 1996). Before this time, in the eighteenth century, there had been different campaigns on what the press stands for and who owns it. Looking back at the time of the Radical press that was made as a result of ……. To the days of the press barons that were politicians and influenced the press before the

‘A free market can be described as a market which is free from economic involvement or regulations by the government. Issues concerning the distribution, usage and pricing of commodities, services and human resources are entirely determined by the private sector and not the government’ (Burch, 1999 p. 168). “Fourth Estate” is on the other hand a phrase commonly attributed to the old scholar, Edmund Burke, who stated that in the parliament there were three estates, which comprised priests, philosophers and commons, but in the gallery yonder of the reporters, there existed a fourth estate that was more important that all the three (Underwood, 2008 p. 1). This is because, while these three influenced how the state was to be run, by introducing laws and making decisions, the press made these laws and decisions known to the public by producing and distributing the information to the public. In other words, the media is important because it maintains the public as a form of an unbiased zone within which the populace organizes and deliberates on issues rationally and collectively for the common good of the society as well as adding to the development of the society.

As a fourth estate and a representative of several business organizations, the press is also subjected to some restrictions on how it should be owned and run. Some of the regulations include; regulations and ownership. In relation to regulations, the press is an open organization whereby decisions on distribution, usage and pricing of commodities, services and human resources are entirely made by the private sector and not the government (Croteau, 2006). For instance, prices of its commodities are decided by the supply and demand of these commodities i.e. when the demand of certain commodity is high, its supply decreases thus leading to an increase in the price. The government has no control over the prices of the services offered by the press. On the other hand, it is allegedly said that press owners also have influence on the distribution and regulation of the press regarding what is written and how it is written. Also price regulation can be determined by them as it is in itself a free market that does not require government intervention. In addition to this, since the press is a free market, anyone is allowed to leave and enter at wish and since it is a corporate institute, anyone can own a press and it gives the consumers a variety to choose from where or whom to buy.

Arguing from the ownership point of view, the press is owned by individuals motivated by their own self-interest. Businesses and their resources, including assets and human resources are exclusively owned by the participating individuals and not by the government. This is due to the idea that the press is meant to be an overseer of the political and social affairs happening in a given society (Underwood, 2008). As an overseer, it should not be owned by the government since it may be biased, or the government may use it to oppress its populace. Following the discussion above, one can comfortably conclude that the press is a free market and can also be seen as a representative of the free market. This is because, no body restricts the number of articles and newspapers produced or distributed apart from how the public demand will behave (Burch, 1999). For instance, if the demand for that issue is high, it becomes automatic that press will produce more copies so as to satisfy the curiosity of the consumers. Thus it is free to decide what product, information or services it is willing to produce and at what prices. Therefore, this freedom of the press has its roots in the fact that a corporate press can freely publish in the free market where advertising is used as the bridge to press independence.

It can be viewed from the regulations angle; ‘Regulation of broadcasting in the past was meant to standardize the comparatively inadequate number of frequencies so as to make franchises available to all the press owners’ (Semour- Ure, 1996). This idea has been used through history to legalize the continuous increasing freedom from government regulation of the British media, particularly the British press, over the past few decades. Following this need, some of the press owners had to be excluded from getting franchise since their supply was limited though it was at the same time not applicable to all owners or those who wished to initiate a press title (Jarlov, 2002). As a result, there was the urgency to measure the public broadcasting services so as to account for the interest of those who were rendered illegible from a franchise. Nevertheless, the establishment of cable and satellite televisions meant that people and organizations could obtain broadcasting services from a wide variety of TV stations thus giving them an opportunity to make choices of their own. It is from this point of view that the less-restricted regulation of the broadcasting became a legitimate objective since one could argue from this angle that broadcasting would become an independent entity from the state. Thus if media is intruded by the government in its daily functioning, then its watchdog function which is the most important thing to the citizens will in the long run become a state’s poodle (Murray, 2007). Also as a fourth estate, the major role of the media is to act as a watchdog in that it is responsible in informing the public the secrets of the state. When it is used for this purpose, the press brings forth the conducts of the characters who misuse the powers of the state. The press analyses and put into scrutiny those political movements whose aims are to manipulate and ruin the public. Press is also useful in making the rights of the citizens clear (Borton, 2009). While some governments may want some of the citizens’ rights hidden so that they can oppress them, the press makes them open to the public through educative programs and publications (Underwood, 2008, p. 4). By doing so, the populace becomes enlightened on what their government offers and it can easily reject that which it perceives evil and embrace that which is considered virtue according to their customs and values. This has therefore endorsed democracy in the public sphere (McNair, 2000). Since the this is the major role of the press as the fourth estate, it has no other contenders but to represent the free market in its entity as there are no restrictions to what can be published and no compulsory regulatory bodies to put under control what should be published or not. For instance the Press Complaints Commission is a regulatory body that is not compulsory for any press organisation to join. Now when media is viewed as a fourth estate, we generally associate it with the assumption that in order for it to perform effectively as a fourth estate, then it must be a separate identity from the state (Gitman and McDaniel, 2008). This is simply to say that it should perform its duties without the government’s interference. Thus for it to effectively become a watchdog, it should be separated from the government (that is, it is not politically inclined) and be given a chance to make its own decisions (Jarlov, 2002). In the same line of thought, this idea is only accomplished by free market systematization of the media because once it becomes a free market; the government will lack powers to control it. It is therefore due to the fact that it is owned by individuals and not the government that the press qualifies to be called a free market (Underwood, 2008).

Press is a term that is commonly applied to the process or act of printing or publishing information and news so that it is made available to the audience in the form of newspapers and journals among other publications. As a fourth estate in a free market, the British Press has played a major role in providing a close examination on the abuse of state power. It is widely agreed that power is the central part of societies’ political culture. Karl Marx believes that the only means through which the political economy of a country can be put on the check is an active, well informed and sporadically difficult community (unsetting economics, 2008).

Consequently, this needs an all round journalism that will be up to date with the affairs of the state. According the Kellner (2010), ‘The Frankfurt School theory suggests that the press has become a major force as a formative mode of political, social and cultural control and organization’. Since the establishment of the fourth estate in the nineteenth century, the press has been used as a tool in improving the decisions made through the public sphere. Thus the press freedom has been used to bring to the public the conduct of those individuals who have violated the powers of the government. Journalist and editorial practices of the British Press depend largely on the concepts of democracy, freedom and independent press (Parkes, 2008).

Indisputable freedom gives the honest analysts a chance to generate a public debate that would ponder the question of how a media group can undoubtedly be relied upon by the public. The moral requirement of the press is to monitor the instruments that are used to control politics as well as to highlight those who abuse power, though not every press is in a position to perform these two duties singularly (Murray, 2007). On the other hand, the responsibility and freedom of legitimate journalism reflect the insightful purpose to the society in which this press is embedded (Webster, 2001, p. 17). Thus as a free market, the press has the freedom to restrain; an aspect which is essential in enabling the journalists, editors and administrators among other important person in the press to put forward the public interest by putting to public the opinions and facts with which the democratic voters can make sound judgments (Petley).

In conclusion, the British press known as the fourth estate can be said to be a representative institution for the free market, as it is a free market in itself, because it comfortably plays its role as a fourth estate in the society. It publishes and distributes its newspapers among other publications in the basis of a free market where sellers and buyers determine the prices and government interference is minimal. It monitors the instruments that are used to control politics, economy and other social aspects. British press has brought about a public sphere where societies share political and economic ideas for the common good of the citizens.

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