United Kingdom - Media

The Post Office, founded in 1635, was the first in the world to institute adhesive stamps as proof of payment for mail. It now operates nearly all postal services. As authorized by 1981 legislation, the Thatcher government relaxed postal and telecommunications monopolies in some areas. The Telecommunications Act of 1984 further promoted competition and denationalized British Telecommunications (Telecom), which as of 1997 encompasses a system of over 34 million telephone exchange lines. In 1998 there were an additional 13 million mobile cellular phones in use throughout the country. As of 1995, there were 63,500 telex connections, and 500,000 data transmission terminals. Some 170 countries can be dialed directly.

Radio and television broadcasting services are provided by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), which was established as a public corporation in 1927, and by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Radio Authority, commercial concerns whose powers are defined in the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 1973. The BBC broadcasts on two television channels and the Independent Television Commission broadcasts on ITV and Channel Four, which began operating in 1982. BBC Radio offers five national radio networks in the medium- and long-wave bands, as well as FM programming and an overseas service in 37 languages. Both the BBC and IBA operate local radio services; the BBC has 39 local stations (including 2 for the Channel Islands). In September of 1992, the first national commercial radio station, Classic FM, was inaugurated, and two other similar stations were planned. As of 1999, there were 225 AM and 525 (mostly repeater) FM radio stations and 78 television stations. In 2000, there were 1,432 radios and over 500 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were about 338 personal computers in use for every 1,000 people and 245 Internet service providers were serving 33 million people by 2001.

Although circulation totals have been decreasing, UK newspaper readership per capita was the second highest in the world in 1995. As of that year there were about 101 daily and Sunday newspapers, some 2,000 weekly papers, numerous specialized papers, and about 7,000 periodicals. Nine Sunday papers and 12 daily morning papers are "national" in the sense of circulating throughout Britain. National dailies, with their political tendencies and their average daily circulations in 2002, are the following:

United Kingdom

The Sun Left of center 3,472,840
Daily Mail Independent conservative 2,476,625
Daily Mirror Independent left-wing 2,187,960
Daily Telegraph Independent conservative 1,020,890
Daily Express Independent conservative 957,970
The Times Independent 719,861
Daily Star Independent 620,420
Financial Times Independent 478,535
The Observer NA 473,521
Evening Standard Independent 430,230
The Guardian Independent 413,670

In 2002, the newspaper with the highest circulation was the tabloid News of the World , which distributes over 4 million papers per week. Six other the Sunday papers have circulations in the millions. The provincial press included more than 100 daily and Sunday newspapers and some 1,600 weeklies in 1992.

In 2002 major papers outside of London (with 2002 circulation) included:

United Kingdom

The Express and Star Wolverhampton 179,460
Manchester Evening News Manchester 168,320
Liverpool Echo Liverpool 150,940
Evening Mail Birmingham 127,983
Evening Chronicle Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 101,490
Sunday Mercury Birmingham 100,400
Yorkshire Evening Post Leeds 95,250

The weekly Berrow's Worcester Journal, founded in 1690, claims to be the world's oldest continuously circulating newspaper. Wales has five daily newspapers (as follows with 2002 circulation):

United Kingdom

South Wales Echo Cardiff 70,570
South Wales Evening Post West Glamorgan 61,180
Western Mail Cardiff 52,760
South Wales Argus Gwent 30,990
Evening Leader Clwyd 30,250

Scotland has six morning, five evening, and four Sunday papers, plus the Scottish editions of the Daily Mail and the Sunday Express. The Glasgow Herald (2002 circulation 95,718) and The Scotsman (82,270), an Edinburgh paper, are the most influential. Others include:

United Kingdom

Sunday Mail Glasgow 701,310
Daily Record Glasgow 597,420
Evening Times Glasgow 103,130
The Press and Journal Aberdeen 98,763
The Herald Glasgow 95,720
Courier and Advertiser Dundee 90,260
Evening News Edinburgh 74,020

About 120 weekly papers are published in Scottish towns. Northern Ireland has two morning papers, one evening paper, and one Sunday paper, all published in Belfast (with circulations ranging from 32,780 to 111,330), plus a number of weeklies. The evening paper is the Belfast Telegraph (circulation 111,330).

Britain's ethnic minorities publish over 60 newspapers and magazines, most of them weekly, fortnightly or monthly. These include the Chinese Sing Tao and Wen Wei Po, the Urdu Daily Jang, and the Arabic Al-Arab (the foregoing are all dailies), as well as newspapers in Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi and Punjabi. The Weekly Journal, aimed at Britain's black community, was begun in 1992.

The over 7,000 periodicals published weekly, monthly, or quarterly cover a huge range of special interests. Leading opinion journals are New Statesman, The Economist, and Spectator. The Times Literary Supplement is highly influential in cultural affairs. The chief news agency is Reuters, a worldwide organization servicing British papers with foreign and Commonwealth news and the world press with British and foreign news.

Although there is no government censorship of news or opinion, the Official Secrets Act, stringent libel and slander laws, and restrictions governing the disclosure of court proceedings do impose limitations on press freedom. In addition, the press regulates itself through the Press Council, which adjudicates complaints about newspaper practices from local officials and the public. Views critical of the government are well established.

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