How far was media, popular culture and British society 'Thatcherised' after 1979?
The political and economic context: what was Thatcherism?
Although Thatcher resigned in 1990, no
government since then, including the Labour
government s of Tony Blair and Gordon
Brown, has seriously challenged the general
thrust of Margaret Thatcher's policies.
promoted the free
On average, the British people became
wealthier, the gap between the rich and
the poor became even larger. Average
disposable income rose by 37% during
She use regressive tax -
a tax which takes a
higher percentage of a
person's income the
richer they are. She
increased VAT by 7%.
British people became more used to borrowing
to pay for consumer goods. There was a rise in
public debt went to 1.3 trillion - by far the highest
in Europe. Around 20% of total families faced
problems with debt. This was made worse by
the launch of the credit card.
The were fewer people who were
genuine members of the old working
class. Trade unions were weakened
severely. The number of miners fell
from 200,000 to 10,000. many local
communities were affected by the end
of a major local industry.
How far did Thatcherism affect mass media?
Thatcher introduced a number of
changes that sought to promote
competition in the media industry. This
was at the expense of the BBC, which
she saw as a wasteful organisation.
The launch of channel 4.
This would be subsidised
by ITV advertising, and
would have legal
instructions to educate,
innovate and provide for
Cable and Broadcasting act
in 1984. This allowed cables
to carry as many television
channels into the homes of
subscribers as possible.
companies made up 25% of
Acquisitions and mergers were allowed between
franchises, this led to significant cross-media
ownership. Dumbing down of programmes and the rise
of commercial advertising to as many viewers as
possible had fuelled greater consumerism.
The 1990 Broadcasting
Act led to the
establishment of many
more local and regional
Sometimes the Thatcher years are called the
'renaissance' of cinema. Thatcher did much to
undermine the British media industry. Increased
audiences were primarily driven by the popularity of
American blockbusters made up 85% of British films
shown in cinemas.
Here too, she tried to remove
subsidies and promote the free
market. Thatcher privatised the
finance corporation for film and
removed 25% of investments on
film. Many film directors, such as
Ridley Scott, went to work in
America and made films such as
Blade Runner and Gladiator
Many British film makers made films
with American financial backing to
attract mass audiences.
After the mass successes of films such as
four weddings and a funeral, the government
set up the UK film council to stimulate a
competitive film industry.
The tough line taken against trade
unions allowed newspaper owners to
modernise their printing operations.
Journalists could put together he
newspaper and print it electronically
without having to use specialist print
For a whole year, many of the redundant workers demonstrated
outside the newspaper HQ of Rupert Murdock, there was a full police presence there too
when it turned violent. Over 1000 arrests were made.
Thatcher used the
law to restrict the
media reporting on
issues of national
security far more than
How far did mass media promote Thatcherism after 1979?
people to make as much
money as they could.
Many television shows
were glamorising wealth
Shows focused on the lives of rich,
selfish characters, but also catered
for viewers with increased
disposable income who wanted to
improve their lifestyles. This began
with Jamie Oliver and Nigella
Lawson on cooking programmes,
gardening was also extremely
popular and encouraged people to
improve their gardens.
Television suggested ways in which
ordinary people could obtain or
replicate the sophistication and
luxury that had previously been
preserved for the rich. Shopping
itself became a leisure activity with
cafes in garden centres, 'Lifestyle'
programmes grew quickly because
they were cheep to produce.
How far did Cinema promote Thatcherism?
Films did not have a direct link
with Thatcherism, unlike press or
television, films are rooted in
action, escapism and allegory. But
they were seen to criticise or react
to values that Thatcher stood for.
views were derived from
American attitudes to
business and economy.
Individualism, freedom and ambition were hugely
reflected in American films. British films reacted to
Thatcherism in two different ways, referred to 'us'
and 'them' films
'Us' films were by smaller
companies who overwhelmingly
attacked Thatcherism, either
through realist depiction or social
tension that resulted in the
increased gap between the rich
and the poor.
'Them' films depict a romanticised,
historical image of Britain to appeal to
American perceptions of Britain and
How far did the press promote Thatcherism?
Around 70% of British
newspapers in circulation
backed the conservative party,
with only the Daily mirror backing
the labour party on a large scale.
sides to the
The process of 'tabloidization', front
covers contained fewer words and
increasingly larger headlines. Travel
and finance sections all attracted
target advertising and promoted
Investigative journalism and the government after 1979
Thatcher did not just promote competition
to undermine the BBC, she also tried to
directly intervene by banning some
programmes and appointing people who
sympathised with her views. She disliked
the way the BBC reported on Northern
ITV was not immune from attempted
interference.ITV listed a show that investigated the
killing of three members of the IRA earlier that year,
where it was claimed that the SAS shot them in cold
blood. Thatcher tried t ban the show.
The media and the Falkland's war
The Falklands islands
represented no real value, the
British said they would only
withdraw when the inhabitants of
the island voted for this to
happen, but seeing as the island
was British, this was not likely to
The Falklands war began when
Argentinian forces occupied the
islands. Argentina wanted a
quick military victory to distract
people from the domestic
problems, Britain sent a task
force to attack them. Thatcher
ordered the sinking of the
Belgrano, which was
subsequently torpedoed and
Some approved of this action to
protect British troops, whilst
some say the ship was outside
of the Total Exclusion Zone. But
the attack still boosted
This led to a huge surge of pride and patriotism for
Britain, the argument on how the media reported on the
Belgrano dragged on . Clive Ponting, a civil servant at
the ministry of defence, leaked tw documents that
confirmed the ship was outside the Total Exclusion
Zone. The government arrested Ponting and charged
him with breaking the official Secrets Act
Clive Ponting was found not
guilty by the jury who felt that
the documents were in the
Dr David Kelly and the 'Dodgy Dossier'
Dr David Kelly was found dead in
woods near his home in Oxfordshire.
He had apparently committed suicide
by taking painkillers and cutting his
left wrist. many people did not believe
the report and saw it as part of a
Dr Kelly was an expert in biological
warfare and played a major role in
uncovering biological weapons in Iraq
after the gulf war. These were a key
claim that Iraq had weapons of mass
destruction and no such weapons were
found after the war.
Dr Kelly met with a reporter on the
assurance that Dr Kelly would not be
named in the news stories. Dr Kelly told
the reporter the dossier for the Iraq was
was fake. The Ministry of Defence
confirmed that he was the source and put
him under enormous stress.
The government were found innocent of any involvement
into Kelly's death or the 'sexing up' of the dossier. The
government blamed wrong reports and mismanagement of
the BBC. The General of the BBC resigned.