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Has UK press lost its political punch?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 - 02:24

Newspapers once played a key role in who would govern a country, particularly in the UK. But as Ciara Lee reports with circulation figures crumbling the headlines in the notoriously partisan British press are failing to have the impact of old.

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A final attempt to influence voters just hours before the election - Britain's partisan press isn't holding back. It's the closest contest in living memory. And newspapers are used to playing a key role. 20 years ago Rupert Murdoch's tabloid the Sun declared that it helped sway 10 million readers to back the Conservatives to victory. Not any more - newspaper sales have fallen 28 percent in the past five years. And Murdoch's News Corp has just reported a 6% third quarter fall in circulation, along with a 12 percent drop in advertising revenue. Tom Felle is a Journalism lecturer at London's City University. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOM FELLE, JOURNALISM LECTURER AT CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON, SAYING: "The British press haven't quite worked out yet that the public are getting their media from social media, from broadcasting, from Youtube channels. Print isn't the be all and end all that it used to be." This vote has been hailed the UK's first social media election - and the politicians know it. Last week Labour leader Ed Miliband gave an interview to Russell Brand - a comedian with 9.6 million Twitter followers and his own YouTube channel. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOM FELLE, JOURNALISM LECTURER AT CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON, SAYING: "He was absolutely castigated by the Tory leaning press for doing it. But you have to ask, did it work? It has had more than a million views on Youtube. It's an audience that wouldn't necessarily buy the mainstream press. They're younger viewers, younger voters perhaps. Whether or not they will vote we just don't know." The print industry is still recovering from the hacking scandal in 2011. Revelations that reporters listened to private voicemails for stories led to the closure of the News of the World. It also highlighted the close relationship between press bosses and politicians. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOM FELLE, JOURNALISM LECTURER AT CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON, SAYING: "Clearly that paper was very badly damaged. But the Sun is still around and it is still the biggest selling paper in the UK. I do think we have probably seen that factored in to circulation already. It is one of the factors, it's one of the things that's leading people to not trust newspapers anymore." Newspapers from the same stable don't even support the same party. One News International publication favours the Conservatives while another backs the Scottish Nationals. Confused? So is the electorate - the field is wide open.

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Has UK press lost its political punch?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 - 02:24