In current discussions of the Royal
Commission that is to inquire into the press, the talk is always of the debasing influence
exerted by owners and advertisers. It is not said often enough that a nation gets the
newspapers it deserves. Admittedly, this is not the whole of the truth. When the bulk of
the press is owned by a handful of people, one has not much choice, and the fact that
during the war the newspapers temporarily became more intelligent without losing
circulation, suggests that the public taste is not quite so bad as it seems. Still, our
newspapers are not all alike; some of them are more intelligent than others, and some are
more popular than others. And when you study the relationship between intelligence and
popularity, what do you find?
1. Manchester Guardian.
2. The Times.
3. News Chronicle.
4. News Chronicle.
8. The Times.
9. Manchester Guardian.
|It will be seen that the second list
is very nearly not quite, for life is never so neat as that the first turned
upside down. And even if I have not ranged these papers in quite the right order, the
general relationship holds good. The paper that has the best reputation for truthfulness,
the Manchester Guardian, is the one that is not read even by those who admire it.
People complain that it is so dull. On the other hand countless people read
the Daily while saying frankly that they dont believe a word of
In these circumstances it is difficult to foresee a radical change, even if the special kind of pressure exerted by owners and advertisers is removed. What matters is that in England we do possess juridical liberty of the press, which makes it possible to utter ones true opinions fearlessly in papers of comparatively small circulation. It is vitally important to hang on to that. But no Royal Commission can make the big-circulation press much better than it is, however much it manipulates the methods of control. We shall have a serious and truthful popular press when public opinion actively demands it. Till then, if the news is not distorted by businessmen it will be distorted by bureaucrats, who are only one degree better.
Copyright The Estate of Eric Blair