University 18 Yrs + | British Politics & the Media
Characteristics of the British Press since 1945 – highly partisan
The British press has been highly partisan, promoting a party at election time and promoting coverage that supports a party or denigrates other parties.
From 1945 just over 50% of the press by circulation supported the Conservatives, about 40% Labour and under 10% the Liberals (the only unswervingly Liberal paper The News Chronicle folded in 1960).
After 1979 this changed significantly with 75% supporting the Conservatives, partly because of the switch of The Sun from Labour to Conservative.
From 1997, the papers shifted to give Labour a majority support with The Sun, The Times and The Express supporting the party in 2001.
The Conservative press has not been that happy with Conservative leaders since Thatcher, even Cameron. Even so, they had all moved back to the Conservative by 2010 and with The Guardian supporting the Liberal Democrats, Labour was left with support only from The Mirror.
In the 2015 general election, The Sun supported the Conservatives and the Economist even supported another coalition.
Whether this support affects votes is uncertain and about a third of the readers of the popular papers do not support the party that the paper promotes.
In recent years the papers, though still partisan, have not been so clearly aligned to the political parties.
This may reflect the parties moving together into the centre ground as newspaper editors do not like consensus because it makes it more difficult to produce the stories that they see as interesting.
Newspapers are also reaching less people. Between 1983 and 2006 the proportion of the population saying that they read a newspaper at least three times a week declined from 77% to 50% and this was across all age groups not just the young.
There is also little evidence that the non-readers go to newspaper websites instead.
The decline is in readership of the ‘popular’ press, as the proportion of people reading the ‘quality’ newspapers has stayed at about 10%.
On the other hand the public is more university educated and it would be expected that more people would be reading these papers.
The proportion of graduates reading a ‘quality’ paper has declined over the period from 50% to 20%.