The regulation of the press

Authored by: Tom O’Malley

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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This chapter discusses the history of press regulation since 1500, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Two established accounts of press history frame discussions of regulation. One emphasizes the significance of the lapse of pre-publication censorship after 1695 and the gradual emergence thereafter of a press free from government control. The other stresses the ways in which, although free from pre-publication controls after 1695, the press became integrated into the economic and political power structures of society and acted as an agent of social control. Discussions about regulation have focused on developments in the twentieth century, particularly after 1945, with an emphasis on whether there should be statutory or voluntary regulation of professional standards (O’Malley and Soley, 2000; Conboy, 2004; Curran and Seaton, 2010: 6–99, 334–37; Leveson, 2012: 58–61).

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