How far did Thatcherism affect mass media after 1979?

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TV - Channel 4

  • A fourth channel recomended in 1977 Report of the Committe on the Future Broadcasting, chaired by Lord Annan.
  • Report recommended that the channel should commision programmes rather than make it's own.
  • This was to improve the diversity of programmes on television.
  • Channel to be subsidised by ITV advertising and had a legal remit to:
    • educate, inovate and provide for minority tastes, rather than chase advertising revenue with popular shows.
  • Programmes that fit the remit are:
    • The Tube (1982-87) - a live pop and rock music programme that gave many alernative bands and comedians, their big break.
    • Brookside (1982 - 2003) - soap opera set in Liverpool that tackled socially challenging storylines such as the effects of sexual assult and drug abuse. First black and gay lead characters.
    • Dispatches (1987 -) - a documentary programme that has broadcast investagative journalists work on a range of controversial topics such as government corruption and Islamic extremisim.
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TV - 1984 Cable and Broadcasting Act

  • An increased competition in TV through introduction of the Cable and Broadcasting Act in 1984.
  • Allowed cables to carry as many new television channels into the homes of subscribers as possible.
  • By 1990, cable TV avaliable to 15 million of 22 million homes in Britain.
  • New TV companies such as Sky Channel were only loosely regulated by the Cable Authority.
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TV - 1990 Broadcasting Act

The most significant introduction of competition in TV. The terms of the act meant:

  • every terrestrial channel had to commision 25% of programmes from independent production companies.
  • launch of 5th terrestrial channel (1997)
  • growth of satellite TV
  • replacement of Cable Autority and IBA with Independent Television Commission (ITC), a 'light touch' regulator. ITC and other regulators replaced with Office for Communications (Ofcom) in 2003.
  • companies had to bid for the 15 regional ITV broadcast contracts. The sums of money varied from region to region. The successful companies were awarded contracts that lasted for 10 years.
  • acquisitions and mergers allowed between ITV franchises; the rules concering other media companies relaxed in 1990s and 2000s. This has led to some significant cross-media ownership.
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Radio

  • Many changes that affected commerical television also affected commerical radio.
  • The 1990 Broadcasting Act led to many more local and regional commercial stations.
  • By 2007 almost all had been bought by groups associated with the three independent national stations the Act allowed:
    • Classic FM (1992)
    • Virgin Radio (Now Absolute Radio, 1993)
    • Talk Radio UK (now talkSPORT, 1995)
  • All of these have then been sold to larger media companies.
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Cinema

  • It is often said that the Thatcher years saw 'renaissance' in British cinema.
  • Audience figures rose in the after 1980s for the first time since the 1950s.
  • Interest in cinema rekindled by the rise of television shows about cinema.
  • Increased audiences primarily driven by American blockbusters and their sequels - these made up around 85% of all films shown in British cinemas after 1979.
  • Thatcher wanted to remove government subsideies and promote the free market.
  • The 1985 Film Act removed the Eady Levy that had subsidised the Brisish studios from the total box office takings.
  • Domestic investment in British films fell after Thatcher privatised the National Film Finance Corporation and removed a 25% tax break on investments in film.
  • Many British directors moved to America so that they could still make films with a Hollywood production value.
  • Many who remained in Britain asked for American financial backing.
  • The National Lottery Fund also provided money for British film making.
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The Press

  • The tough line taken against unions allowed newspaper owners to modernise their printing operations.
  • Rupert Murdoch moved his printing operations from Fleet Street to a new complex at Wapping in 1986. This meant print workers weren't needed and those that went on strike could be sacked without a redundancy payout.
  • Thatcher used the law to restrict media reporting on issues of national security far more than previous governments.
  • The word 'spin' was not coined until the 1990s, it was under Thatcher than information began to be carefully selected (or leaked).
  • Public Relations (PR) officials, or 'spin doctors', such as Alastair Campbell, have become familiar yet shadowy figures.
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