Reading resource: Chapter 1: Whig press history as political mythology
This chapter tells story behind the press freedom in Britain, in the period of nineteenth century. And how people judge it.
Generally speaking, we believe the British press have attained its freedom around the middle of the nineteenth century which due to two bases. First one, the heroic struggle against the state, for instance, the abolition of the Court of Star Chamber, the ending of press licensing, Fox’s Libel Act and the repeal of press. Secondly, the financial independence as the product of capitalist development of the press. And according to the New Cambridge Modern History, the financially independent press became ‘great organs of the public mind’ which empowered the people and made governments accountable, what’s more, it made vital contribution to Britain’s maturing democracy by becoming more responsible and providing the factual information needed for people to make balanced and informed political judgments.
However in this book, author brings out another saying that, the period around the middle of the nineteenth century, it will be argued, did not inaugurate a new era of press freedom and liberty; it introduced a new system of press censorship more effective than anything that had gone before. And that is the power of marketing. We may summary the phenomenal as relative freedom in absolute control.
It seems different scholars have different opinion about press freedom. The events that British people struggle against the state: the abolition of the Court of Star Chamber, the ending of press licensing, Fox’s Libel Act and the repeal of press.
Questions about this chapter:
Why they say “the progress of the press” was central to “the broadening of political liberty”?
What is free press? How to defined the free press? Is all press which has economic independence could be named free press? What elements should a free press has?
Is the “commercialization” of the press really occurred in nowadays? How do we deal with this situation? Is the time when press controlled by the commercial better or worse than the time when press controlled by the authoritarian?