United Kingdom

The UK has a complex array of laws and regulatory frameworks that both protect and circumscribe the print and broadcast news media, and civil society organizations have developed a myriad of techniques to keep journalists on their toes.

Debate about journalistic standards has become a significant feature of public discourse. Critics argue that increased competition within and between media outlets has driven standards down. The industry counters that standards have never been higher and the media must be free to make mistakes in the service of the public good.

Print journalism is commercially driven and free to be partisan. Regulated by the industry-funded Press Complaints Commission (PCC) it is criticized for being ›a law unto itself‹. Although circulations are falling, national newspapers retain considerable influence over public opinion, and no government would risk limiting their freedom.

By contrast, the more highly-regulated broadcast journalism is also more highly-regarded for its veracity and impartiality, yet, in terms of news agenda-setting, a symbiotic relationship has developed between print and broadcast journalism. Many civil society groups support regulation to ensure that minority views and voices are heard, citing the public service value of journalism to empower citizens and enhance democracy. Readers, viewers and listeners continue to challenge media standards through complaints, lobbying and imaginative use of the Internet.

For more details see Mike Jempson / Wayne Powell (2011): United Kingdom: From the Gentlemen’s Club to the Blogosphere. In: Tobias Eberwein / Susanne Fengler / Epp Lauk / Tanja Leppik-Bork (eds.): Mapping Media Accountability – in Europe and Beyond. Cologne: Herbert von Halem Verlag, pp. 194-216.

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