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London Forum – The Role Of The Press – November 20, 1950 -BBC World Service – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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The Press. Even in 1950, an establishment sought after, relied upon, maligned, suspected and trusted; celebrated and gunned down, dispenser of Propaganda and pursuer of truth.
It’s always been that way, ever since an event was witnessed and relayed to an interested or concerned public. This episode of London Forum, a weekly program produced by the BBC World Service during the 1940s until the 1960s, deals with the role of the Press in the world’s affairs. The reporting of events – and how that reporting ran the risk of being interpreted in different ways to achieve different results. How much honesty was in reporting and how much was manipulated by publishers, editor and even the reporters themselves. It was a point of concern, certainly during the post World War 2 period and during the height of the Cold War when journalistic integrity was compromised by politics and the art of persuasion.
It’s interesting to note that, even in 1950 there was concern that Media was taking over and that corporations were in the process of dominating access to information. In 1950, newspapers were still a heavily relied on source of information and that ownership of these newspapers were becoming more consolidated and that some companies owned more than one newspaper in many cities.
This program also compares the Press of the U.S. with the Press of Europe, primarily the UK and the differences in coverage and style. According to the British observers, American journalists and media were less restricted than their UK counterparts. Both the American commentators and the British commentators noted that the atmosphere of “bending the truth” was prevalent in both sectors of the Press.
In comparison, you could say the journalistic atmosphere of the 1950s was considerably more fair and open than it is now. We didn’t have a Fox News or its equivalent, or a Rupert Murdoch quite yet – there were still hard and fast rules, even if they weren’t directly expressed – integrity was a given.
So this half-hour discussion is enlightening, even if it may be a bit hard to hear at times, owing to it being a shortwave broadcast. Some things irrevocably change while others steadfastly stay the same.
Here is that half-hour discussion via the BBC World Service from November 20, 1950.