News International

   Part of Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s global News Corporation, News International is the biggest and most influential media conglomerate in the UK, and inspires strong opinions and controversy. Currently, its most significant British components are the Sun, The Times, and the Sky satellite channel (see BSkyB). This gives News International a formidable position in the British media industry, a situation that has prompted calls for restrictions on cross-media ownership, notably from the Labour Party.
   While News International titles staunchly backed the Conservative governments over the last twenty years (with accusations that Murdoch has interfered in editorial decisions), both The Times and the Sun offered grudging acceptances of Labour Party leader Tony Blair. He responded in kind, and Labour’s position on cross-ownership was diluted in 1995. This effectively removed the biggest threat to News International in Britain.
   But while critics can point to News International’s over-dominant market position, there is also no doubting the financial and media acumen of those running it. The Sun was ailing badly when News International acquired it in 1971, but it has been the biggest selling UK daily since the mid-1980s, and is the model followed by other tabloids. The Times was equally in decline in the mid-1980s, but News International managers recognized the editorial and policy errors that created that problem, and the paper steadily clawed back both its circulation and reputation. Undoubtedly much of this is due to the backing these papers get; both can survive price wars better than any other paper because they can call on News International’s huge resources to back them up, unlike their competitors. Another significant decision was the controversial move in 1986 from Fleet Street to Wapping in London’s East End. This led to a violent and bitter dispute between management and workers, but in the end Murdoch won, and now nearly every national paper operates out of the East End or Docklands, using the revolutionary computer technology that News International installed during the move to Wapping. News International will continue to generate controversy while it maintains its dominant market position, and rightly so. It will certainly be interesting to see whether a new government introduces stricter laws on cross-ownership, but for many, News International represents a story of true entrepreneurial ability, risk-taking and innovation. The company currently has a wide range of significant plans for future development.
   Further reading
    Seymour-Ure, C. (1996) The British Press and Broadcasting Since 1945, 2nd edn, London: Blackwell.
   REX NASH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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