The press, in common with the rest of the mass media, is everywhere under political attack - sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly - while at the same time it faces such severe economic pressures as to raise real doubts about its future. Many great newspapers and magazines have disappeared altogether, and only a very few new ones (not many of them improvements on the old) have taken their place. Most towns in Europe and North America are now served by only one newspaper, emphasising a trend towards monopoly of newspaper ownership and, with it, a return to the age of tycoon proprietorship which had begun to decline after the war. Most countries have seen a drop in newspaper readership (especially among serious newspapers); the ratio to 'entertainment' of column space devoted to serious (especially foreign) news has decreased, resulting, inter alia, in a substantial decrease in the number of foreign correspondents employed in overseas posts by national newspapers. The growth in the number of Communist regimes and the rise of the Third World has seen the expansion of a government-controlled press in all but a few countries of which India, Mexico and Nigeria are examples. And this is by no means the whole liturgy of woes that can be recited by those who believe in the value of a free and independent press.
LRB 4 November 1982 | PDF Download