Abstract: Industrial Policy and the Manufacture of News in Britain, 1870-1940

Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb


If news is to represent the marketplace of opinion, is it best left to the visible hand of managerial capitalism or should an invisible hand guide it? How have industrial policy decisions concerning communications technology affected news production? This paper investigates how the nationalization of telegraphy and broadcasting influenced the shape of the news industry in Britain between 1870 and 1940. I find that in both instances a commitment to sustain the autonomy of individual entrepreneurs and a desire to avoid both predatory pricing and costly duplication led to the creation of inclusive but monopolistic news organizations, namely the Press Association and the BBC. I explore how the relationship among these organizations, the General Post Office, other news agencies, and the newspapers they served shaped the manufacture of news. I conclude that the system of news manufacture in Britain, although inefficient, avoided concentration.