All the Arabic You Never Learned the First Time Around by James M. Price

By James M. Price

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While the press barons reached a growing audience as a consequence of a rapid increase in circulation, this was also not new. There had been a sustained growth of newspaper consumption ever since the seventeenth century, and this growth was already accelerating before the press barons made their mark. The large empires created by the press barons may thus be viewed as a continuation of three well-established trends—chain ownership, an expanding market and a tendency for a few papers to become dominant.

This major expansion of the London-based press meant that some proprietors gained enormous audiences even when they owned relatively few papers. This applied in particular to Lord Beaverbrook, controller of the Daily Express, the leading popular daily of the late 1930s. These changes meant that, after the death of Lord Northcliffe in 1922, four men—Lords Beaverbrook, Rothermere, Camrose and Kemsley—became the dominant figures in the inter-war press. In 1937, for instance, they owned nearly one in every two national and local daily papers sold in Britain, as well as one in every three Sunday papers that were sold.

The rise in publishing costs helps to explain why the committed left press in the late nineteenth century existed only as undercapitalized, low-budget, highprice specialist periodicals and as local community papers, an important but as yet relatively undocumented aspect of the residual survival of the radical press. The operation of the free market had raised the cost of press ownership beyond the readily available resources of the working class. Market forces thus accomplished more than the most repressive measures of an aristocratic state.

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