Thursday, October 8, 2009

The North Atlantic

Jamie Reid, for the Sex Pistols, 1977


Definition of North Atlantic / Liberal Counties

The liberal countries are by definition those in which the social role of the state is relatively limited and the role of the market and private sector relatively large….Market institutions and liberal ideology developed strongly.

The liberal “Anglo-American” model is more widely recognized as a concept. It includes the United Kingdom and Ireland. Canada and the United States are discussed but not emphasized in this course.

In all of the countries:

-commercial newspapers developed early without much political involvement

-there is an informational style of journalism

-political neutrality is strong in the press, except for Britain

-journalistic professionalism is strong, except for Ireland

-public broadcasting and regulatory authorities are politically insulated

J.S. Mill wrote that British press was influenced by “commercial money-getting business and religious Puritanism.” Protestantism played an important role in the development of literacy because of the emphasis that all men should read the word of the Lord.

There was also an early expansion of the market and social classes. In the 1700's in Britain, there was a decrease in royal power and increase in laissez faire economic policies. Politics became more of a rational inquiry discussed with common sense. But the first official daily press The Daily Courant, was financed by the government.

This promotion was designed by and is named after the "Tea Party" American General Christopher Gadsden.

Britain is known for “taxes on knowledge,” started with the Stamp Act of 1712. This tax was imposed through the colonies on newspapers, pamphlets, advertisements and paper. This was one of the main conflicts between Britain and the US. However, when it was announced, the US First Amendment was interpreted as too narrow by some because it seemed to leave regulation to states, or as too general without direct punishment for issues like libel.

Point to consider, p. 203

In the liberal model “the increasing value of newspapers as advertising mediums allowed them to gradually shake off government or party control and to become independent voices of public sentiment.” This view was challenged by revisionist scholarship …which saw the commercialization of the press as undermining their role in democratic life, first by concentrating media power in the hands of particular social interests – those of business, especially – and second, by shifting the purpose of the press from the expression of political viewpoints to promotion of consumerism.

Commercialization is an increase in the market emphasis of newspapers, through advertising and efforts to increase circulation numbers with more interesting content. Though the traditional paper newspaper is being replaced by the internet, the paper is still relevant in the North Atlantic and Central European Countries. Google research has revealed that advertisements that appear in newspapers and their websites reinforce confidence in products and services. A study commissioned by Google, shows that consumers trust newspaper ads, and many times look at both newspapers and the Internet to evaluate and make purchases.

According to the NAA, 67% of people who research products and services after seeing newspaper ads will then go online for more information, while 70% of that group will end up buying the product or service after doing more research.

Looking at the winners of Europe's Cannes Lions advertising awards in the print and news category for 2008 show very nostalgic themes.

Volkswagen's "product recall" ad campaign, PON's Automotive Handel - DDB Amsterdam

Vintage cars, Mattel Germany, Matchbox, Ogilvy Frankfurt

James Brown record album, Radio Nova, Paris, Y&R France, Boulogne Billancourt

Commercialization freed the newspaper of government subsidies but the news did not loose all political ties as many media magnets became political players. Hearst sought Democratic nomination for president and Lord Beaverbrook was quoted as saying he ran newspapers “purely for the purpose of making propaganda.”

William Randolph Hearst. 2nd from left

Frenchman Alexis Tocqueville

Alexis Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America “ a newspaper can survive only if it gives publicity to feelings or principles common to a large number of men.” The liberal countries are not known for party papers, with a few labor papers in Britain and Ireland. In America, the largest subculture media is Spanish language media. In Britain, class differences are visible between quality serious press for the upper class and tabloid press favored by the middle and lower classes. Ireland imports Britain’s tabloid press. Britain’s great number of papers comes from an early nationalized press. In the US, there was a slower move to nationalism with The New York Times not even national until the 1980’s.

Political Parallelism

The liberal countries use more “fact centered discourse,” with information and neutrally narrative styles. The neutrality means there is a low level of political parallelism, with Britain at the highest. In the US party affiliations of newspapers are normally vaguely implied.

Point to consider, p. 210

The use of the term “neutral” to refer to the Anglo-American style of journalism is not meant to imply that it is literally “value free” or without a point of view…the point is that these media position themselves as a catchall media cutting across the principal lines of division between the established political forces in society.

Britain is characterized by moderate pluralism with an orientation toward the center. However, when the “common citizen” editorializes, it normally takes a right wing, nationalist, anti-communist stance with traditional gender and social views. The quality papers of Britain are the most subtle in political style, similar with The New York Times. The BBC and Independent Television companies act under requirements of impartiality.


Professionalism is strong in the North Atlantic except for Ireland. In the US the pay of journalists was at first low which resulted in low ethical standards as journalists could be easily bribed to fabricate or embellish news. The “yellow journalism” of the early 20th century eventually subsided. Perhaps due to commercialization, the news is rooted in an ideology of customer or public service.

Rupert Murdoch built his experience in British media

The author mentions that media owners are considered manipulators of information. The film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington shows the press as unwilling to report news. Australian Rupert Murdoch started with British news in 1969 and did not initiate his manipulated American news until the 1990’s. Britain has the highest problem of slanted news after Italy. Many journalists describe “editorial interference,” with up to 1/3 of stories changed to enhance interest (p. 227). Britain has several press councils for journalists such as the National Union of Journalists. Ireland however has no news council or complaints organization. The general North Atlantic model is self-regulation, as even when advising bodies exist they are relatively hands off.

Point to consider, p. 226

The idea of what is professional also varies. Some people consider a professional journalist one who works the news for a tabloid. There is also a different between the American idea of professional as neutral and the European idea of professional as demonstrating independent judgment and authentic subjectivity. To the Europeans, the American were not “honest witnesses.

The Role of the State

The North Atlantic States encourage a capitalist society. There was some past subsidies, such as reduced postage and exchanges of papers. The US has the first amendment which guarantees press freedom and means overall much less regulations than in Europe. In Britain the freedom of the press is more of a cultural tradition. However the Official Secrets Act prevents reporting information which could risk national security. Ireland is a post-colonial state. Public broadcasting has been dominant.

Point to consider, p. 233

The relation between the state and media is not solely a matter of regulation, subsidy and state ownership. It also involves the flow of information – including images, symbols, and interpretive frames. And in this sphere, it is not at all clear that the media and the state are more separate in Liberal countries than in the other two systems studied here: though the rhetoric of the Liberal countries tends to stress and adversary relation between the media and the state. ..both state officials and journalists claim a kind of neutral authority.

Interestingly, a study revealed that the leading media countries with nuclear power, the US, Britain and France, had the highest degree of censorship.

South of France, photo Jason Fosco

More on the state

The North Atlantic countries are considered moderate pluralized but they are also individually plural and consider themselves providers of information to the common man or woman. Britain however bans churches and political parties from having a press license which is encouraged in other places like Scandinavia. Public broadcast is controlled by the majority party or it must be separated from the political party. Issues of clientelism, of preferential information, are observed in Ireland. In the US, the press appeals to the government through lobbying which has reached $28 million a year.


The liberal countries are

-early industrialized, commercialized

-limited government involvement, except in Britain

-moderate to individualized pluralism

-majoritrainism, meaning majority control of public broadcast.

The development of a commercial press has resulted in professional journalists who make “fact centered” news. Britain and Ireland have greater public broadcasting systems and more party press parallelism. But Britain has the lowest level of reader trust in the media at only 15%! Overall the North Atlantic are not the leaders of new production but it is the central European countries we study next.

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