The Sun : Success Or Failure Essay, Research Paper
The Sun daily newspaper is a success! It may not be every ones idea of a success; in fact to many The Sun is a disaster. This essay will explore the differences between these two views of what is the United Kingdoms largest circulation newspaper. It will reach into the past to discover its roots and follow its growth to the present day as Britain?s and possibly the Western worlds largest circulation of a Nation daily newspaper How national newspapers like the Sun ?fit? into the large media conglomerates and the restraints and freedoms encountered and enjoyed in an expanding world of media technology Whether this technology has created a fourth estate and as James Curran and Jean Seaton would have it ?Power without Responsibility?. (2) Finally it will address the future of newspapers as we approach the 21st century
The first object of the media, any media is to attract an audience. In this the Sun has certainly succeeded six days a week month in month out it has attracted that audience in large numbers. It was not always so! The Sun was built on the ashes, or rather the remains of the Old Daily Herald. The International Publishing Company, which had acquired Oldham?s shares in the paper in 1961, gained a controlling interest by persuading the Trade Union Council to part with their substantial holding in 1964. (3)
Up to this time The Daily Herald with its links with labour, and part ownership by the T.U.C. was the sole remaining outright supporter of the labour party. It radical views attracted a mainly working class readership which compared to its capitalist rivals had a larger circulation than most, and certainly a more loyal one. However despite the fact that The Daily Herald had grown to be the daily newspaper with the largest circulation in the Western World Throughout it existence, with the exception of an all to short period whilst newsprint was rationed during the Second World War, it has struggled to survive. In the post war period after the rationing of newsprint ceased the input of advertising determined whether a publication continued remained financially viable The Daily with a readership drawn mainly from the working class fail to attract sufficient advertising that would, together with the cover price to make it financially viable. The elite press such as the Daily Telegraph could survive and prosper on a readership of just over a million, thanks to the advertising revenue it attracted because of its prosperous readership The Daily Herald with a marginally larger circulation was continually appealing to its readers for support, as well as going cap in hand to the T.U.C. to enable it to stay afloat.
To gain access to the advertising so desperately needed to survive I.P.C decided to close the Herald and re-launch it under a new banner The Sun? The concept was to aim for a new readership of the upwardly mobile social radical, whilst retaining the loyalty of the Old Daily Herald readership. The pre-launch research suggested that The Sun should have gone down market and launch as a popular working class daily tabloid. The Daily Mirror also owned by I.P.C already occupied this space in the market . Despite the research, and almost as if it was a death wish the launch went ahead with an almost impossible task. That of attracting two radical wings of the left, who may have held similar political beliefs and objectives, but held widely different views as to the means of obtaining them.
The new middle of the road Sun failed to attract the young upwardly mobile radical socialist. It fail to please the old Daily Herald readers, who did not transfer their loyalty to this ?neither one nor the other hybrid. Most importantly of all the advertisers failed to come knocking on the door. In 1969 the Sun was all but given to Mr Rupert Murdoch
Ironically The Sun under Rupert Murdoch proprietorship moved down market. As a popular working class daily newspaper. No longer restricted with a Daily Mirror bed mate, and by using this rival as an aiming mark, the new skilled staff of Murdoch?s Sun set out to chase and eventually overtake the Mirror to become Britain?s favourite daily newspaper
This was achieved by attracting a working class audience in general, and the working class male in particularly by, what has come to be known as ?dumming down?. The political coverage was drastically reduced; entertainment and sports coverage increased along with human interest reports featuring stars of stage, screen and television. The cream on the cake was an imput of soft porn, with the page three girl the decoration on top. Whilst this revitalising was taking place, through its editorial columns the political views expressed was shifted away from left and centre values to support hard right policies. The current Conservative views of the time were rigorously followed, expounding the materialistic and authoritarian views expressed by supporters of a capitalist system. Selection and structure highlighted nationalist and iclonistic rhetoric, peaking during the Thacherite era, particular during the Falklands conflict with its controversial ?GOTCHA? headline, following the sinking of the Argentinean Cruiser Belgrano.
This wooing of a mass readership, by an appeal to the basic instincts of the working class male, successful in building The Sun. The disaster that is pointed to by critic of Murdoch, is not the success of the Sun, but the method by which it was achieved. Despite the criticism from many quarters, it cannot be denied, that its growth over a relatively short period, brushing aside the rival Daily Mirror, and reaching circulation figures not considered possible, let alone obtaining them, confirmed Murdoch?s Sun as a phenomenal success
It is also ironic that, the same readership that supported, if not ideology, financially, a capitalist The Sun; grew out of The daily Herald diametrically opposed to its views, but supported ideology and financially by the same working class male
This has been a very broad outline of the history of The Sun from its conception to today largest circulation daily newspaper in the U.K, and possibly the Western World. However it would be a mistake to dismiss it as a ?rag? aimed at the lower income groups with the sole aim of making a profit for its shareholders. Whilst profits are important, and there remains the continual need to retain a mass readership, and the associated appeal to its advertisers. The Sun cannot, and should not be seen in isolation, particuarly when own by a proprieter such as Rupert Murdoch. The Sun is but a part of the Murdoch conglomerate. Along with its bedmates in the U.K., The News of the World and The Times and Sunday Times it projects the capitalist views of their proprietor through a total circulation of almost 11 million.(1)
These views are not necessary conservative, but rather right wing and are supportive of and forward his commercial interest?s world wide, including Television, Radio Film and newspapers, as well as substantial non-media interests
The ideological influence on the readers of the Sun should not be underestimated, together with the imput from Satellite T.V. which is directed at a the same audience that reads the Sun. The support of a political party through its editorial imput may and has been alter, not because of any ideological change in direction by that of its proprietor. But rather to support the manifesto or actions of the political party that in Government will be most advantages to his business interests at home and abroad. Murdoch?s British media interest have always backed the winner in national elections. From the rapid move from centre left to hard right as the 1974 election approach, and throughout the 18 years of Conservative Government. The move to New Labour came only as New Labour itself moved nearer to the right, or steered clear of the interest of this powerful media Mongol. However despite its support for New Labour, since its election in 1997, along with all other national newspapers, with the occasional exception of The Guardian and The Independent, The Sun has consistently opposed many of the social changes introduced by this new middle of the road Labour government. This despite the fact that the proposed legislation will benefit the majority of its readership. The Sun?s continual opposition to the E.U. in general, and the single currency in particular follow almost step by step the Conservative opposition policies The U. K.?s overwhelming capitalist press though seemingly and possibly fiercely competitive in its drive for profit does, present and extol points of view which are remarkably similar. This together with the control of other media outlets by the same conglomerates, of which Murdoch empire is a leading example. are, it is said in some quarters a threat to the Establishment by a forth estate. An Estate as powerful and in some areas more powerful than elected representatives. Indeed power without responsibility!
Certainly there is continual pressure from certain elite groups and individuals, many of whom gained their present fame or notoriety, as well as financial success through media exposure, now crying out to be protected from so-call media intrusion. There are demands for laws to curtail the press, a type of censorship by the introduction of a privacy act. The national press has always resisted any act that limits free speech even during the Second World War when the pressure to curtail these freedoms was extreme. The Sun has been in the forefront of the ?intrusion? controversy, both as the villain of intrusions, and the Knight riding to defend the people?s right to know. The Sun?s concern for the people?s rights has not stretch to supporting a freedom of information act. and its editorials remain resolutely silent on the long overdue introduction of an constitution.
Despite singular self interests, and its often self congratulatory journalism Newspapers such as The Sun can and do act as a questioning and some times restraining influence on government and more importantly civil service and other national agencies. This is important when the governing party are face with a week and ineffectual opposition such as at this present time when momentous happening within the E.U.. will affect the citizens of this country. There is some conserlations that a capitalist press lead by Murdoch?s ?Up Front Sun and a refined Times group, will question and open the debate on these and other issues through the pages of his publication. Granted these will be conducted, selected and structured to reflect and support the interests of his capitalist organisation. Any opposition to his and the other almost entirely British capitalist daily press, such as the occasionally radical Guardian and Independent and a hopefully radical Daily Mirror preach to the already converted, and are on a hiding to nothing. But what is the alternative?
The alternative are other information media, this is not to say that national newspapers will disappear. The demise, even death of national newspapers has be predicted by ?experts?, and hoped and prayed for by much of the establishment for the most of the twentieth century. Following on from the nineteenth, during the first part of the twentieth restriction taxes and outright censorship including criminalisation was seen as the means to bring the ?press?, meaning the radical press to heel. The radical press was reigned in and virtually decimated by the middle of the century. Not by any government act, although the war saw a banning of a newspaper ? The Daily Worker ? for the first and only time this century. The death of radical journalism came about through commercial reasons, an inability to compete in the advertising market. Neither were Newspapers as whole brought to there knees by the arrival in an affordable package of the wireless. Quite the contrary, the growth of radio, and very soon alongside it Television, saw a growth in circulation numbers in the National press particularly in popular tabloids. Owners of press syndicates recognised that the days of the National Daily being the great informer had gone. The distiller of information had passed to Televsion and to a lesser extent radio. There?s was the ability to attract an audience by entertainment, and hold it to inform It was a formula that the National press copied, or visa versa, the chicken or egg scenario will never be resolved. The advantage that was retained by the National press was a more in depth reporting, and a freedom of what, when, and how much to print. It was and is not restrict by time and a scheduled planned months previously and printed and publishes in such as of the Radio Times up to fourteen days before. Only Great events usually of National nature altered this timetable. Coverage of events in Television and Radio news programmes was shallow and cropped. One only has to listen to a programme like Today on Radio 4 to hear continuously ?I am sorry we have run out of time, we will have to leave it there ?to appreciate the tightness of scheduled programming. There are no such limitations on the written word. Circulation increased as the public turned to the nationals for the full stories. The tabloids accommodated by filling and expanding the story to feed the public appetite. Even the so call quality broad sheets joined in as journalistic craze for the story, dumbing it way upwards. Recognising the wind of change blowing through the media industry ,and that if you can?t beat them join them, the press conglomerates bought into, bought out, or started there own radio and television companies. As terrestrial channels came up renewal of licensing powerful media groups such as United News (, Anglia, Channel 5) gained control. Others such as Associated Newspapers and the Holinger group opted for cable. Whilst the biggest player of all, Rupert Murdoch covered the globe with satellites and beamed down BskyB, Fox Broadcasting and Asian Star.
The circulations of national newspapers peaked in late eighties, the days of a continual rise in the circulation has gone forever. Like the U.S. Newspaper groups the British National newspapers have and are seeing a steady decline in circulation. The perceived reason for this decline is a loss of credibility. According to surveys conduct in both the U.S. and U.K(2). a large majority of those questioned or who returned a questionnaire considered that newspaper over dramatised the news in their desperation to keep up circulation figures. A similar figure considered the press to be bias and manipulative. shaping or killing stories to pacify powerful groups, in particular big business and rich individual. An even larger percentage has become sceptical about the accuracy of the press and consider that their prime object appeared to be persuasion and entertain rather than to inform.(2)
The mantle of acceptability and trust tends to be in Television rather than print, but even here it has slipped with the exposure by The Guardian of ITV?s supposedly fly on the wall documentary about the smuggling of drugs into the U.K from Columbia. Such programmes put a question mark against all documentaries. If this type of programme can be broadcast on terrestrial T.V. before it can be challenge, and were a Code of Practice, be it voluntary, is supposedly followed by massively powerful media group: how much more power without responsibility can be beamed down via satellite by the likes of Rupert Murdoch
The perceived latest threat to the world of print and in particular national papers world wide is the Internet (3) That media conglomerates consider the internet a cause for some alarm is the number of World National Daily Newspapers opening sites, the return of the if you can?t beat, join them syndrome Perhaps more of a pointer is Murdoch recent ranting against Yahoo and Netscape (4) The Murdoch empire does not appear to have open a site for any of its world wide Daily Nationals as many large print organisation world wide have There are some reasons that would suggest that if not the death of newspapers, the Internet is going to eat farther in to circulation figures. Where previously challenging the big players in the information market was veirtually impossible given the cost of promotion, production facilities, journalistic and associated imput. To-day real challenges to what for most of this century has been the preserve of the rich and powerful individuals and groups, is a reality.
? ?The traditional media have found they cannot simply
trundle on to the net and find themselves in charge
simply by the fact of who they are?
Simon Waldman The Guardian 11/1/99(Media) www.guardian.co.uk
1) Power without responsibility ?pages 80-81 (the conglomeration of the British press)
2) Media Guardian ? 4/1/99- Press in peril by Richard Lambert
Get it right and make it fair by Edward Helmore
3) Media Guardian ? 11/1/99 ? Stop the presses by Simon Walman
4) B.B.C. World Service World News 0100G.M.T. 12/1/99