An analysis of politics and the fortunes of the UK national pressFor publication.
© C H I S H O L M, April 2010.2
ARE MURDOCH AND ROTHERMERE BETTER OFF UNDER LABOUR?
What’s more important? Political conviction? Business? Or Influence? Do people ownnewspapers, and other media for that matter, for business reasons or reasons of influence?As we now hurtle toward a general election the facts are more interesting than the perceptions. Prejudice is against. Democracy is for. So how should we advise Mr Murdochand Lord Rothermere to vote in the coming election? The historical facts would suggest morewith their heads than their hearts.It’s a fact that most British newspapers do better in opposition to their own political instincts.This has to be a good thing for democracy, and free speech, but hey…. It’s not necessarilygood for business.Take The Times, the once bastion of the establishment. More than any other newspaper itneeds Labour more than the Conservatives. Its circulation share has performed significantly better under Labour, than when the Tories were in power. Since it was acquired by Murdochin 1981
, every year of Tory power has cost them 6% of their circulation share relative towhen Labour was in power
. (Price warring and a heavily promoted shift to tabloid accepted.) Now that The Tories may be returning, is its hard won share slipping?The Daily Mail has rightly developed a great reputation as a commercial success since the lateLord Rothermere brought the paper back from the brink in 1969, to become a commercial phenomenon. But the reality is that it owes much of its success to Labour. Most periods whenthe Tories were in power rather than Labour have cost the Mail market share, against aconsistent gain when Labour have been in power. Over the period of a government, that’s alot of sales. In translation the Mail has gained around a million copies in share equivalentunder Labour, and lost around half a million copies under the Tories).Over the last 40 odd years, The Daily Telegraph’s picture is shrouded in lost opportunity.During the sixties and seventies it is true that the paper followed the model of contrary performance, and certainly its circulation plummeted during the Thatcher years. For other reasons it showed little sign of recovery when Labour came to power. It was revitalised under its new owners and a refreshing strategy, but now, as the Tories may return to power, its shareis beginning to decline again.Rupert Murdoch’s Sun has always run an opportunist editorial strategy, supporting whichever party was most likely to be in power. While its greatest period of growth was during the pricewars of the mid ’90’s, its period of fastest decline was during the time when it supportedLabour around the 1997 election. During the late ’90’s and early 2000’s circulation share wasrelatively stagnant. However in recent years The Sun’s circulation share has again beensteadily rising.
For the purpose of modelling the analysis estimates the averagethecirculation of The Times between the period of its closuredue to a strike and its recommencement of publishing.
That is 6% of its share of 8%. Not 6% of the total market.