Franklin Thomasson

Question 6: ‘The most significant contribution to the growing status of the press by the end of the nineteenth century was made by new patterns of ownership and management’, do you agree[RM1]? INTRODUCTION New patterns of ownership and management did contribute to the growing status of the press at the end of the nineteenth century, but its significance is difficult to comprehand. These changes did mean that the press was allowed to progress, but other factors which helped to forge society and in turn the structure of the press, are also attributable.

The changes of ownership and management within the newspaper industry was mainly due to the speedy expansion of the whole industry. Newspapers became cheaper to buy mainly because of the abolishment of taxes directly related to newspapers, like the Advertisement Duties (1853), Newspaper Stamp Duty (1855) and the Paper Duties (1861), (Lee 1978). New printing presses could therefore be bought allowing more newspapers to be produced efficiently at a cheaper labour cost.

New affordable technologies such as composing machines and the continuos ‘webs’ of paper used with the printing presses, helped lower the unit-cost of newspaper production (Lee 1978). Overall this helped create a larger circulation of newspapers, attracting numerous advertisers, ready to pay increasing sums of money, to get their name printed in the largest selling dailies (Lee 1978). Other technical advances which were not directly linked to newspapers also helped the expansion of the press.

The railways for example allowed the large London daily’s to grow ever larger as their papers travelled nation-wide, much to the disappointment of the provincial papers (Lee, 1978). The provincial papers did benefit though, through the telegraph allowing them to receive important information from around the nation to add extra substance to the local news, which they relied on (Lee, 1978). These technological factors, joined with a growing population, urbanisation, larger material prosperity and the overall increase in education, meant that the management and ownership of newspapers was forced to change (Lee, 1978).

Changes took place in the newspaper industry because of the realisation that profit was a certain possibility in this more developed society. Although this viewpoint would certainly increase widespread competition. The main problem between the press in the late nineteenth century was the difference of beliefs of what form it actually had in society. Would it be a Fourth Estate, ‘with proprietorship a form of public service and journalists a species of public philosopher’ (Lee 1978, 118)? Or instead, would the press be seen as an industry with journalists and businessmen seen as normal tradesman.

These beliefs would seem inconsequential when market forces meant that the newspaper role was firmly profit orientated. Entrepreneurs were therefore tempted into the market, and as the solicitor for the Provincial Newspaper Society described in 1879, ‘I am afraid one does not invest one’s energies, or one’s capital, in any line of life, simply for the public good’ (Lee 1978, 120). The status of the press therefore improved, with high profile figures in line to get involved, for their own material ends.

Traditionally ownership was formed either via sole ownership, maybe working from a family business, or even a partnership (Lee 1978). This ownership was almost always based upon an existing printing business (Lee 1978). The size of many newspapers during the early nineteenth century was minimal even in London, compared to the massive growth, which was about to occur later that century. It would have taken about i?? 25,000 to develop a London daily newspaper in 1870, while it would have taken about i?? 100,000 by 1870 (Lee 1978).