The media play a central role in BritainТs daily life, informing and
educating, questioning and challenging Ц and of course Ц entertaining. In recent
years the availability of more radio frequencies, together with satellite, cable
and microwave transmissions, has already made a greater number of local,
national and international services possible. The transition from analogue to
digital transmission technology is now expanding this capacity enormously. The
Internet is providing, increasingly, an additional medium for information,
entertainment and communication.
Television and Radio
Broadcasting in Britain has traditionally been based on the principle that it is
a public service accountable to people. While retaining the essential public
service element, it now also embraces the principles of competition and choice:
Х the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), which broadcasts television and
Х the ITC (Independent Television Commission), which licenses and regulates
commercial television services, including cable and satellite services.
Х the Radio Authority, which licenses and regulates commercial radio services,
including cable and satellite.
The three bodies work to broad requirements and objectives defined and endorsed
by Parliament, but are otherwise independent in their daily conduct of business.
Television viewing is by far BritainТs most popular leisure pastime: over 97
per cent of households have at least one TV set. British television productions
are sold world Ц wide.
The BBC provides two complementary national terrestrial television networks: BBC
1 and BBC 2, which transmit 24 hours a day. It also provides a range of digital
channels, including BBC News 24 and BBC Choice. BBC Network Radio serves an
audience of 29 each week, transmitting 24 hours a day on its five national
networks. BBC has 39 local radio stations serving England and the Channel
Islands, and regional and community radio services in Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland. BBC World Service broadcasts by radio in English and 42 other
languages world Ц wide. It has a global weekly audience of at least 140 million
listeners. BBC Worldwide Television is responsible for the BBCТs commercial
television activity. It is one of EuropeТs largest exporters of television
programmes. It also runs an advertiser Ц funded, 24 Ц hour international news
and information channel; and an entertainment and drama channel broadcast to
subscribers in continental Europe and Africa.
The BBCТs domestic services are financed predominantly from the sale of
annual television licences; there are no paid advertisements. BBC World Service
radio is funded by a government grant, while BBC Worldwide Television is self Ц
The ITC licenses and regulates three commercial television services Ц Channel 3
and Channel 4 (in Wales the corresponding service is S4C), which complement each
other, and Channel 5 Ц all financed by advertising and sponsorship. Channel 3
programmes are supplied by 15 regionally based licensees and an additional
licensee providing a national breakfast Ц time service. Licences for Channel 3
and 5 are awarded for a ten Ц year period by competitive tender to the highest
bidder who has passed a quality threshold.
Independent radio programme companies operate under licence to the Radio
Authority and are financed mainly by advertising revenue. There are three
independent national services: Classic FM, broadcasting mainly classical music;
Virgin 1215, playing broad Ц based rock music; and Talk Radio UK, speech Ц based
service. About 200 independent local radio services are also in operation.
Stations supply local news and information, sport, music and other entertainment,
education and consumer advice.
Teletext, Cable and Satellite Services
The BBC and independent television both operate a Teletext service, under which
information is displayed as УpagesФ of text and graphics on receivers equipped
with the necessary decoders.
Cable services are delivered through underground cables and are paid for
subscription. Cable franchises have been granted covering areas comprising 83
per cent of all homes and nearly all urban areas in Britain. In mid Ц 1999 there
were about 12.1 million homes able to receive such services, and 3 million
subscribing homes. Digital technology is being introduced which will support up
to 500 television channels. Cable also has the capacity for computer Ц based
interactive services, such as home shopping and email.
Many British Ц based satellite television channels have been set up to supply
programmes to cable operators and viewers with satellite dishes. Some offer
general entertainment, while others concentrate on specific areas of interest,
such as sport, music, childrenТs programmes and feature films. The largest
satellite programmer is BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting) which, with around 7
million subscribers, dominates paid Ц for television in Britain. It launched its
digital satellite service in 1998, carrying more than 140 channels.
Satellite television and cable services are funded mainly by subscription
National newspapers have an average total circulation of over 13 million on
weekdays and about 14 million on Sundays, although the total readership is
considerably greater. There are 10 national morning daily papers and 10 national
Sundays Ц five УqualitiesФ, two Уmid Ц marketФ and three УpopularsФ. There are
about 1,350 regional and local newspapers, and over 7,000 periodical
There is no state control or censorship of the newspaper and periodical press,
which caters for a range of political views, interests and level of education.
Where they express pronounced views and show obvious political leanings in their
editorial comments, these may derive from proprietorial and other non Ц party
A non Ц statutory Press Complaints Commission deals with complaints by
members of the public about the content and conduct of newspapers and magazines,
and advises editors and journalists. In 1995, the Government rejected proposals
for statutory regulation of the press and for legislation to give protection to
privacy. Instead, it endorsed self Ц regulation under the Commission and
recommended tougher measures to make self Ц regulation more effective.
Working practices throughout the newspaper industry have become more
efficient with the widespread used of advanced computer Ц based technology.
Publishers have been able to reduce production costs by using computer systems
for editing and production processes.
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