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Was the Wapping Revolution a Good Thing or a Bad Thing for British Journalism?

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David D H Andrews Wapping Revolution 1 09/11/04 Was the Wapping Revolution a Good Thing or a Bad Thing for British Journalism? In 1986, when Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News International, moved production of his major titles (The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and The News of the World) from Fleet Street to Wapping, he set about an irreversible chain reaction in the structure of journalism in the UK. Although I believe that some kind of major political and technological change in the press was inevitable and arguably overdue by 1986, this essay will argue that the Wapping Revolution itself was bad for British journalism. Rupert Murdoch began monopolizing the UK news market when he bought The News of the World in 1968, followed soon after by The Sun, now the UK's highest circulating tabloid with over 3.5m copies. By 1981 he also owned The Times and The Sunday Times, giving him a substantial grip on the quality newspapers, as well as the popular market. This period in UK press history (1974 to 1989) was one of rocketing competition and commercialization, as papers began 'spicing up' their image and content in order to attract and retain readership and to remain competitive. ...read more.


M/f David D H Andrews Wapping Revolution Page 3. Grim though this state of affairs may have been for industrial workers, this gave Rupert Murdoch his chance: the very government he had assisted in its rise to power was obligingly clearing the way for his revolution. His opportunity to cut costs had arrived, and the Wapping revolution could begin. Murdoch began seeking "a legally binding agreement at the new plant in Wapping which incorporated flexible working, a no-strike clause, new technology and the abandonment of the closed shop." (Source: Despite The Sun -Spectacle productions, 1987) Murdoch wanted to lay off two thirds of his staff and restart newspaper production in a new location with new technology. He wanted to avoid the high cost and the management stress of militant unions. Unsurprisingly, the Trade Unionists were not prepared to sit back and let this happen. In January of 1986 about 6000 British Trade Unionists went on strike after a series of unsuccessful negotiations with Rupert Murdoch. He had, however, anticipated this protest against his revolution. The Wapping works had been specially designed for such incursions, and were surrounded by twelve-foot chain-link fencing adorned with razor-wire. ...read more.


There is no doubt that the Wapping Revolution benefited those who could afford to compete using Murdoch's technological and political changes, but it also excluded less wealthy competitors, many of whom went bankrupt. "It [the Wapping Revolution] reduced costs for major players and removed their dependence on the whims of the printers and the closed-shop practices of the NUJ, but it did not necessarily make journalism itself any better or more diverse. It reinforced a news media led by commercialized consumer choice instead of contribution to a public sphere which defines the range of journalism." (Conboy, 2004) Contraction of ownership led to a limited choice of editorial diversity, and therefore removed incentives for quality journalism. This was accelerated by Murdoch's move to Wapping where he laid down the technology gauntlet for his competitors. Consumers cannot be sure of objectivity in the news if there is only a small cadre of newspaper owners dominating editorials. Although The Sunday Times does look different to The News of the World, the reality is that both are owned by the same person. This simply has to affect choice and variety. Wapping made newspapers more profitable. This led to fiercer competition, tabloidization and increased sensationalism -all of which continue to damage British journalism. ...read more.

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