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UK Political Analysis 100409 V5.1 JPC

UK Political Analysis 100409 V5.1 JPC

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Published by: jim_chisholm on May 13, 2010
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An analysis of politics and the fortunes of the UK national press
© C H I S H O L M, April 2010
An analysis of politics and the fortunes of the UK national pressFor publication.
© C H I S H O L M, April 2010.2
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.
An analysis of politics and the fortunes of the UK national pressFor publication.
© C H I S H O L M, April 2010.3Meanwhile the left leaning Guardian has enjoyed a serendipitous relationship with the political system, overlaid against a strong circulation performance over the years. But oneonly needs to look from the ’60’s to the late ’80’s to see that its circulation fortunes rancontrary to those of the country’s political sentiments.It has historically benefited from a conservative government – look at how badly it formedduring the end of the Callaghan government, and how well it performed during the Thatcher era - but as the graph below shows, since the last election The Guardian’s share has improved.Is this a reflection of the general trend, or that the newspaper has been an opposition inresidence?In the case of the Mirror, the issue has to be seen in the context of its less successfulcirculation performance over time. But even here, the inverse influence of politics isinstructive. For whatever reason the newspaper has suffered a decline in market share back tothe sixties. But its rate of decline under Labour has been double that when the Conservativeshave been in power. Could it now enjoy a revival under a change in government?Meanwhile the other titles show little pro or contrary influence of the party in power. In thecase of The Express this may reflect its range of owners and allegiances. The Stars’ newfound success is certainly not down to its political persuasion. And in the case of TheIndependent? Maybe it is.Finally, can circulation be used as a barometer of likely shifts in voting behaviour? Well acareful look at trends immediately leading up to and following general elections suggests thatnewspapers’ circulation trends regularly reverse. Take a look at the following graphs anddecide for yourself. This may simply reflect the amount press barons will spend on promotionto get their result, whether it’s business or influence. Ultimately commerce wins over conviction, every time.Each of the following charts shows the variance in sale versus political control (e.g. % votesin the General Election). The sharp lines show the specific variances in every period. Thecurved charts show the “line of best fit” over time. Political share (measured as Toryadvantage or disadvantage is in black. Newspaper circulation share is coloured. Judge for yourself what they say.© Jim CHISHOLM.April 2010.For more information or clarificationEmail: jim@jimchisholm.net Phone: +447775817797Skype: jpchisholm

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