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The Effect Of The Wapping Revolution On British Journalism

2552 words - 10 pages

The Effect of the Wapping Revolution on British Journalism

In 1986, when Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News International, moved
production of his major titles (The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun
and The News of the World) from Fleet Street to Wapping, he set about
an irreversible chain reaction in the structure of journalism in the

Although I believe that some kind of major political and technological
change in the press was inevitable and arguably overdue by 1986, this
essay will argue that the Wapping Revolution itself was bad for
British journalism.

Rupert Murdoch began monopolizing the UK news market when he bought
The News of the World in 1968, followed soon after by The Sun, now the
UK's highest circulating tabloid with over 3.5m copies. By 1981 he
also owned The Times and The Sunday Times, giving him a substantial
grip on the quality newspapers, as well as the popular market.

This period in UK press history (1974 to 1989) was one of rocketing
competition and commercialization, as papers began 'spicing up' their
image and content in order to attract and retain readership and to
remain competitive.

The middle ground between tabloids and broadsheets was disappearing as
papers resorted to sex, scandal and shock tactics to make money. As a
result, standards in journalism were slipping before the Wapping
revolution, as price wars raged between newspapers. The process of
quality papers resembling their tabloid counterparts in both layout
and content is often described as tabloidization (Conboy, 2004).

A good example of declining standards in journalism prior to the
Wapping Revolution is the birth of Murdoch's The Sun which was the
first newspaper to contain images of topless women to attract readers.
The paper was not just a piece of sensationalistic journalism, with
intrusive methods of 'digging up the dirt' on public figures in the
name of news, it was also salacious. The first issue of The Sun
contained a photograph of the Rolling Stones accompanied by a naked
female and within 100 days the paper's circulation leapt from 850,000
to 1.5 million.

"Women were routinely degraded through page 3 photos of nudes or near
nudes." (Source: Despite The Sun -Spectacle productions, 1987)

Stephen Koss, author of The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in
Britain described Rupert Murdoch's genre of newspaper proprietor as "a
businessman first and foremost". Koss argues that politics were less
of a motive for the actions of newspaper owners and more of a method
for achieving financial success.

Unlike some of the UK's previous press barons, Murdoch was not driven
by some altruistic or solely political motive in his acquisition of
British newspapers. He is an entrepreneur, and his drive for media
domination was predominantly financial: he wished his media

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