What Are the Most Distinctive Features of the British and American Media? How Do You Account for Them?
As a smaller country, Britain astonishingly has multitudinous newspapers, which is considered as the first most especial feature of her mass media. On the one hand, by
ththlooking through the history of the development of press freedom from 17 century to 19
century, we can see that in Britain the argumentative instinct and tradition have championed the freedom of the press. In particular, John Milton’s Areopagitica, the emergence of the
ththcoffee house in the early 18 century, official record Hansard, John Stuart Mill’s mid-19
century tract On Liberty, and the repeal of the Stamp Act and of the Paper Duties, all had devoted to the development of individual freedom. On the other hand, the British are the most voracious newspapers readers in the world: They read newspapers at breakfast, on the bus as they go to work; and on the way back home, after work, they are engrossed in an evening journal. Thus the myriad demand for newspapers has heralded the enormous circulations (the largest in the world) in British newspapers, including national daily, tabloids and the middle-ranking ones. Without significant geological differences, more newspapers with national readership are required to print. Though the national ones are large in size, the broadsheets are not so much popular as the smaller tabloids which provide series articles with a less educated readership but more people’s worst instincts. Anyway, at least, The
Times, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph are generally accounted British’s “Big Three”
and have long been recognized as the world’s greatest newspapers.
Besides offering features common to newspapers all over the world, British print media specialize in pages devoted to criticism of the arts and, as we all know, the reporting of sports and athletics. The purchasers often buy evening newspapers because they want to know the winner of a race, or to get a good tip for a race that is still to be run. In the terms of political satire and political cartoons, Hogarth (the father of the political cartoon), James Gillray (the developer of the political cartoon), and David Low (one of the most distinguished
thcartoonist of 20 century Britain) had put much effort into criticizing the royal family or ridiculing the government by using humorous and amusing pictures which are largely
subscribed. What’s more, there is no censorship of the press in Britain, though of course all newspapers-like individual persons-are responsible for what they publish and can be sued for libel for publishing articles that go beyond the bounds of decency, or for contempt of court. They frequently intrude into the private lives of public persons, yet such lawsuits are infrequent. In 1990, a department named the Press Complaints Commission was set up to restrict the behavior of a publication. It has made commitments in several areas in publication, aiming at restraining the freedom of the press media, as well as brings complaints from the public.
Another characteristic of the press in Britain is that it is owned by powerful individuals. Most of the newspapers have a political standpoint, but to some extent, many of them have become temporary tools of political parties in appealing the support of the public in election. As in 1992, The Sun’s front page on the day of the General Election was widely believed to contribute to the Conservative victory of Mr. Major. Also Mr. Blair once successfully courted the support of Rupert Murdoch before sitting on the leader seat of the Labor party. Anyhow, the newspapers are certainly running the business.
Unlike the press, mass broadcasting has been subject to some state control from its early days. One agreed purpose has been to ensure that all news, comment and discussion should be balanced and impartial, free of influence by government or advertisers. Ever since the BBC broadcast for the first time in1922, its monopoly was continued until 1955, when an independent board, ITV (Independent Television), appeared as a rival. By the large, the BBC is therefore a “public service broadcaster and answerable to government” (not the political
tool). Additionally the BBC was also the first authority in the world to offer a public television
thservice and British media was distinctive for its advanced televised public lives in middle 20
century while the majority of the world of that time still tagged behind in television network. However, the BBC until now is still financed by the licence fee, which is less prevalent in the USA. On the contrary, ITV gets the income from advertising.
Compared to the newspapers in Britain, those in the US are rather freer, or the freest in the world, for the Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech as the First Amendment to the constitution. The American media once flaunt its most just and balanced view and they could report whatever they want. For example, in 1971 The New York Times, one of the world’s
great newspapers was finally proved to be reasonable and legal in reporting a secret study of the US involvement in the Vietnam War which was covertly given by the government officials. The US Supreme Court was unable to convict its crime or it will violate the norm of the First Amendment. In the meanwhile, as a larger country, America has fewer newspapers with a national readership while majority of them tend to have a more local orientation and are almost owned by individuals. Another evident feature is the press’s independence: both
of the two political parties haven’t its official newspaper and very occasionally does the
government disturb the contents of the press. Someone even has called the American media as the “Forth right” to charge the government, excerpt for the Executive, the
Legislature and the Judiciary.
The development of the American broadcasting started from the 1920s and in the 1940s almost every American family owns at least one radio, and many have three or four. Years ago, families often gathered around one big living-room radio to get the latest news. Here we know the Voice of America (VOA), which is considered nearest equivalent of the BBC. What is especial about American’s broadcasting is that in 1930s it had helped President Franklin Roosevelt and the United States break away from the depression, known as the “fireside
chats”. It’s easy to find that Americans often turn to radio for fresh and quick news and many stations broadcast up-to-the-minute news every half hour. In the United States, there is no government-owned television network. And this did cause the fierce competition between the television companies and cinemas. Commercial television attempted to please a vast audience of all age groups and educational levels by presenting entertainment that can be understood and advertising was the main source of their income. Actually the American media are the same as the British business, and The New York Times and Washington Post and some others monopolize the market. Moreover, America is specialized in its “televised
Presidential debates”, which gives a vivid screen showing how Presidential candidates compete with each other in the debates. And this kind of debate has featured in almost every election since the first one between Kennedy and Nixon. Most people regard the televised debate as a form of democracy of the government and the justice of the election. This is a class act.
By the large, American media are privately-owned, independent, monopolized and profit-devoted, which are contended as the four most distinctive features.