British newspapers get bad press

Durant l’été 2011, la presse anglaise connaissait un des plus gros scandales de son histoire : le tabloïd News of the World avait mis sur écoute des centaines de célébrités. Cette affaire a rendu la presse britannique particulièrement vulnérable et a poussé les hommes politiques à s’interroger sur une éventuelle régulation, d’autant plus nécessaire selon eux, après la polémique provoquée par Edward Snowden.

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In 1867 the working class got the right to vote in England. At this time there were only serious newspapers (for instance The Times, which was created in 1785). This kind of press was too intellectual and politicians needed to convince workers to vote for them. That is why a more popular press appeared in 1890s. Nowadays the British newspapers are still divided into two categories: quality papers and popular ones.

Even if Britons buy more national newspapers than the French, and have one of the most dynamic media landscapes, as in many other countries, with the rise of the Internet, newspapers are suffering from a severe crisis. Furthermore, given the Murdoch empire in the media, Britons should diversify their sources of information and have different points of view from only Murdoch’s. But newspapers remain significantly influential in Britain when it comes to the European Union. The conservative press largely uses the European Union as a scapegoat. It is not surprising that Britons are so much less enthusiastic about the EU with media that never focus on the pros of the EU construction.

Today the British press is going through a lot of trouble. Indeed some tycoons possess a lot of newspapers on Fleet Street; for example the Australian Rupert Murdoch owns the Sun and the Times. This concentration can be a menace for democracy. Moreover, the News of the world scandal revealed some of the deceptive practices of the British tabloids. News of the world and the Sun listened to thousands of famous people’s conversations. They hired private detectives, who had to find private mobile phone’s numbers to wiretap, which is called the “blagging” technique. Since  1997,  the British press has seemed to calm down, because Britons accused it of being responsible for Lady Diana’s death. Yet some people say wiretapping, the bribery of policemen, hidden cameras do not merely concern the popular press. That is why some measures have to be taken to regulate all these illegal practices.

Not so long ago, the UK was a model of media independence. But given several recent events, the Snowden scandal, the spying scandal, Murdoch… freedom of speech seems to be increasingly in danger. After the Guardian relieved the information provided by Edward Snowden, David Cameron said that this information was a dangerous troublemaker for British society, and helped Britain’s enemies. Furthermore 8 journalists accused of phone spying for Murdoch’s newspapers are to be tried, which is all the more damageable for the press. It turned out that the UK government created a charter to control the media. charter which has been approved by Queen Elizabeth herself last October. It includes a system of regulation by law and aims at establishing the principles of journalist ethics: journalists need to respect individuals’ rights and make sure that what they publish is completely accurate. It is a revolution for UK newspapers. As a result for the British media, the implementation of this charter is no more and no less that an obstacle to freedom of speech. The organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE) denounced this project which denies the principles of freedom of the media that have been defended for centuries. The British media tried to delay the charter by seizing the high Court of Justice of London.

Emmanuelle SIMONET & Léonor WEJMAN

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