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Due to the complicated and political way in which the UK media sector is built the people that may indeed own a company doesn’t necessarily mean they run it. The British media is separated into two main categories; public service broadcasting; privately owned media corporations.

The former is the dominant broadcaster in Britain. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a company that the public can choose to pay for (a legal requirement if they receive and watch a television transmission), but it is not paid for through a tax system unlike many other national publicly funded broadcasters. Due to this unique funding method the BBC is ruled by an elected official – the Director General who will have other Directors elected around him. These Directors are appointed by the BBC Trust – made up of 12 members who ensure what is being broadcast is of general public interest.

Despite the initial simplicity of the BBC’s structure, the Governmental Department of Media, Culture and Sport influences the BBC’s choice of material and has a great amount of control over BBC3, a channel that orientates itself toward the British youth.

Ofcom (Office of Communications) is a government office that also plays a role in allowing what is, or is not to be broadcast. They challenge certain programmes if they are deemed to violent, sexual, and adjust the watershed appropriately.

Ofcom also governs what can be broadcast on commercial television. ITV is the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster, it is owned by stakeholders and shareholders but the Chairman and the Board of Directors manage the company.

ITV, along with every other commercial station will also have to adhere to Terms and Conditions set by Ofcom. Even BSkyB, has to show impartiality whereas it’s US sister-station Fox offers a notoriously biased service (Wring, 2005, p.2).

Traditionally media barons own the majority of the press, but this idea is still relevant today. Lord Beaverbrook came to Britain and started the Daily Express that became the biggest selling newspaper in the world after the World War 2. Lord Rothermere owned the Daily Mail and the General Trust like his father before him and as his son does now.

The British press have been separate to the Government and can be seen as the voice of the public. They can sometimes end up being political actors and influence the government’s decisions, especially if there is outrage or demand for more information or a change in law.

Often the press can bend to the will of the government however and join their side. A good example is Rupert Murdoch’s sway of allegiance from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair during the 1980’s and 90’s.

Rupert Murdoch is a good example of a ‘modern-day’ mogul despite his age. He has built an enterprise across two continents. It will be tough for him to continue building much further into Europe however, due to EU Competition Law he will struggle to become the dominant media owner (Trappel & Meier, 1998, ch. 12). This is also inhibiting his attempt at increasing his share in BskyB.

The ownership of British media can be simply but who runs it contains many different arguments. The public service is a self-run operation with an idea to inform, educate and entertain the public, but the government has it’s say in media, culture, sport and youth. It also runs the office that has supreme power over whether or not images should be aired. Even the press has to answer to the Dept. of Trade and Industry and while many see the people that make money from the newspapers, they are advised and left to operate under the government’s watchful eye to ensure they are able to keep running. “Critics have suggested Murdoch’s conversion was less about politics and more about defending his business interests from government scrutiny” (Wring, 2005, p.6).

 

Bibliography:

TRAPPEL, J. MEIER, WERNER A.Trappel,(1998) ‘Media Concentration and the public interest’. in Media Policy: Convergence, Concentration and Commerce. ed. by Siune, K. McQuail, D. London: SAGE Publications, 38-59

WRING, D. (2005) Media ownership and British politics in Politics Review, 14/15, pp. 28-31

 

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