The Press in Britain The different types of national daily paper Monday, 23 July 1990 was an important day in British politics: Margaret Thatcher completed a complicated re-sorting of lobs in her Conservative government, a series of moves and replacements which involved 31 ministers; the Labour Party put forward new proposals on local taxation; there were key developments in the Government’s plans to sell the National Electricity Generating Board.
The next day, all these stories were featured on the front page of The Times and several other newspapers, but they did not receive front-page coverage in other national daily newspapers. Both The Sun and the Daily M/rror featured a story about a particularly unpleasant double murder. MADMAN MURDERS 2 WOMEN was the headline in The Sun. The only other story on the front page of this newspaper was about a husband and his unfaithful wife. By contrast, The Times gave the murder story only a quarter-column on page two.
Probably in no other country are there such great differences between the various national daily newspapers — in the type of news they report and the way they report it.
On the one hand, there are the “quality” newspapers: The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph. These concern themselves, as far as possible, with factual reports of malor national and international news stories, with the world of politics and business and with the arts and sport.
On the other hand, there are the “populars” or “tabloids”, so-called because of their smaller size. The tabloids — the most widely-read of which are The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, The Sun and The Daily Star— concentrate on more emotive reporting of stories often featuring sex, violence, the Royal Family, film and pop stars, and sport. It is often said that the popular Press aims to entertain its readers rather than inform them.
The tabloid Press is far more popular than the quality Press. The average daily circulation in 1989 for the Daily Mirror, for example, was almost 3,200,000, while for The Times it was less than 450,000. The most popular quality paper is The Daily Telegraph with a circulation of around 1,100,000 per day, compared with The Sun’s circulation of over 4,170,000. Of course, more than one person usually reads each newspaper that is sold (the readership of The Sun, for instance, is probably over 11,000,000 per day). It is estimated that two out of every three adults regularly read a national daily newspaper, and that three out of four adults regularly read a local newspaper (see below). This means that the British are one of the biggest newspaper-reading nations in the world.
Who owns the newspapers? In some countries, newspapers are owned by the government or by political parties. This is not the case in Britain. Newspapers here are mostly owned by individuals or by publishing companies, and the editors of the papers are usually allowed considerable freedom of expression. This is not to say that newspapers are without political bias. Papers like The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express and The Sun, for example, usually reflect Conservative opinions in their comment and reporting, while the Daily Mirror and The Guardian have a more left-wing bias.
Sunday papers In addition to the 12 national daily newspapers there are nine national papers which are published on Sundays. Most of the “Sundays” contain more reading matter than the daily papers, and several of them also include “colour supplements” — separate colour magazines which contain photographically- illustrated feature articles. Reading a Sunday paper, like having a big Sunday lunch, is an important tradition in many British households.
Nearly every area in Britain has one or more local newspapers — in England alone there are around 90 daily papers and over 850 which are published once or twice a week. Local newspapers provide an important focus for the community, reporting local news and advertising local businesses and events.