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Changes In The 19th Century British Press J De Salles

2185 words - 9 pages

Changes in the 19th Century British PressDuring the nineteenth century the press changed because of changing attitudes in society, advances in technology and changes in law. The press changed gradually over this course with certain people playing an important role in this progression.The first thing to consider is the feelings towards the press from the turn of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth century. It was a time of popular agitation where the government sought to suppress free political expression through various strategies. Some of these included fining editors and giving them prison sentences, sensitive material had to pass official censors before being published, the Stamp Tax was increased in 1815 and again in 1819 as attempts to try and limit the number of radical papers in circulation and the government also paid proprietors money in order to buy the papers' support and to prevent them from publishing offensive reports.The early nineteenth century therefore saw a division in the press; there were two styles of newspapers, the quality press and the popular press. The quality press were subject to both stamp and paper duties and attracted readers at the higher end of the market. The popular press was aimed at the working class to promote political agenda concerned with this fraction of society. Several weeklies were launched in the nineteenth century, some legitimate others not. The legitimate papers included stamp duty in the cover price; some of these papers were the Sunday Times, the Observer and the News of the World. People who refused to pay the tax on principle produced the unstamped illegal papers such as the Poor Man's Guardian.The unstamped papers were very popular since they were much cheaper than legitimate papers. These papers were prepared to use strong language and personal attacks on people to get their points of view across. They had a long-term significance in the role of the press because they showed how a paper could heighten political awareness and spread the idea of rights to citizenship across all fractions of the society. The government was alarmed by their agenda and so the Stamp Office employed a team of detectives to track them down, but after 1836 they stopped prosecuting them when unstamped sales exceeded those of the stamped. This was the first break through of press freedom and led the way for papers to follow in the future where the role of the press would inevitably change.Thomas Barnes became editor of The Times- a quality press- in 1817 and he transformed British journalism. He was determined to remove his paper from a position of obedience to political parties and the state. Thomas Barnes wanted his paper to be an opinion-forming leader of people and governments. He succeeded in this by not being bought or persuaded by the government not to print reports they might find offensive. At this time the quality and popular press were moving away from government guidance and rules to become...

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