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British Politics and the Cinema Newsreel

The first cinema newsreel was produced in London in 1910 and two a week were produced for cinemas across the country. For the first time the majority of the population were able to watch national politicians and, after sound was introduced in 1929, to hear them.[amazon_link asins=’1787380068′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’brituniversity-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’4bd6cad4-9118-45eb-ba3e-febe1f4e1a02′]

The nature of newsreels was generally light hearted with extensive coverage of sport, celebrities and royalty and they also provided people with images of the various parts of the British Empire.

By the 1930s, produced by five competing companies, they were typically ten minutes long and, despite left wing criticism that they gave no coverage to industrial relations, they were following the dramatic political events of the 1930s.

They were generally pro-Government and presented the view that Britain was prepared for war, if necessary, but showed some recognition of the dangerous militarism of Hitler and Mussolini.

The Conservative Party recognised their importance and Movietone news, owned by Lord Rothermere, was more favourable to the Conservatives, while Chamberlain’s attempt to agree a peace settlement with Hitler at Munich was carefully stage managed with cheering crowds on the way to and from the airport.

The realisation by 1940 that Britain was clearly not prepared, led to a new cynicism about news coverage by a public previously ready to accept it at face value and Pathe News adjusted to the post-war situation by giving more favourable coverage of the Labour Government.[amazon_link asins=’1841199001′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’brituniversity-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’acafcc38-ba29-470d-a025-1b2c6634fba3′]

By the 1960s the cinema newsreels were unable to match television’s ability to present news as it happened and the last one was shown in 1970.