Some features of today's British life


      From 1981 to 1989 the  British  economy  experienced  eight  years  of
sustained growth at the annual average rate over 3%.  However,  subsequently
Britain and other major industrialized nations  were  severely  affected  by
recession. In Britain growth slowed to 0.6%  in  1990,  and  in  1991  gross
domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.3%. GDP fell in 1992 as a  whole  by  0.4%,
but it  rose  slightly  in  the  second  half  of  the  year.  The  recovery
strengthened during the first part of 1993; with GDP in the  second  quarter
being 2% higher than  a  year  earlier;  the  European  Commission  expected
Britain to be the fastest growing of all major European  economies  in  1993
      Recent indications that the recovery is under may include:
         . an increase in manufacturing output;
         . a steady upward trend in retail sales;
         . increases in new car registrations;
         . record levels of exports;
         . increased business and consumer confidence; and
         . signs of greater activity in the housing market.

   The Government’s policy is to ensure sustainable economic growth  through
low inflation and sound public finances. The  Government’s  economic  policy
is set in the context of a medium-term financial strategy, which is  revived
each year. Within this strategy, monetary and fiscal policies  are  designed
to  defeat  inflation.  Short-term  interest  rates  remain  the   essential
instrument of monetary policy.

   Macroeconomic policy  is  directed  towards  keeping  down  the  rate  of
inflation  as  the  basis  for  sustainable  growth,  while   micro-economic
policies seek to improve the working of markets  and  encourage  enterprise,
efficiency  and  flexibility  through  measures   such   as   privatization,
deregulation and tax reforms.

   The economy is now benefiting from substantially lower interest rates. In
September 1993 base interest rates were at  6%.  They  had  been  cut  by  9
percentage points since October 1990, and were at their lowest since 1977.


   Private  enterprises  generate  over  three-quarters  of  total  domestic
income. Since 1979 the Government has privatized  46  major  businesses  and
reduced  the  state-owned  sector  of  industry  by  about  two-thirds.  The
Government is taking measures to  cut  unnecessary  regulations  imposed  on
business, and runs a number of schemes which provide  direct  assistance  or
advice to small and medium-sized businesses.

   In some sectors a small number of large companies and their  subsidiaries
are responsible for a substantial proportion of  total  production,  notably
in the  vehicle,  aerospace  and  transport  equipment  industries.  Private
enterprises account for the greater part of activity  in  the  agricultural,
manufacturing,  construction,  distributive,  financial  and   miscellaneous
service sectors. The private sector contributed 75% of total domestic  final
expenditure in 1992, general government 24 % and public corporations 1%.

   About 250 British industrial companies in  the  latest  reporting  period
each had an annual turnover of more than Ј500 million. The  annual  turnover
of the biggest company,  British  Petroleum’,  makes  it  the  llth  largest
industrial grouping in the world and the  second  largest  in  Europe.  Five
British firms are among the top 25 European Community companies.


   The service industries, which include  finance,  retailing,  tourism  and
business services, contribute about 65% of gross domestic product  and  over
70% of employment. Britain is  responsible  for  some  10%  of  the  world’s
exports of services; overseas earnings from services amounted to 30% of  the
value of exports of  manufactures  in  1992.  The  number  of  employees  in
services rose from over 13 million in 1982 to 15.5 million  by  the  end  of
1992,  much  of  the  rise  being  accounted  for  by  growth  in   parttime
(principally female) employment.

   Average real disposable  income  per  head  increased  by  nearly  three-
quarters between 1971 and 1990 and this was reflected in a rise in  consumer
spending of financial, personal and leisure services and on the  maintenance
and repair of consumer  durables.  Demand  for  British  travel,  hotel  and
catering services rose as  real  incomes  in  Britain  and  other  countries
increased. The spread of home  ownership,  particularly  during  the  1980s,
increased demand for legal and state agency services.

   Britain is a major financial centre, housing some of the world’s  leading
banking, insurance, securities, shipping, commodities,  futures,  and  other
financial services and markets. Financial services are an  important  source
of employment and overseas earnings. Business services include  advertising,
market  research,  management   consultancy,   exhibition   and   conference
facilities, computing services and auction houses.

   By the year 2000, tourism is expected to be the world’s biggest industry,
and Britain  is  one  of  the  world’s  leading  tourist  destinations.  The
industry is Britain’s second largest, employing nearly 7% of the  workforce.
Retailing is also a major employer and Britain has an advanced  distribution
network. An important trend  in  retailing  is  the  growth  of  out-of-town
shopping centres.

   The computing services industry continues  to  be  one  of  the  fastest-
growing sectors of the economy, and information technology  is  widely  used
in retailing and financial services.

   A notable trend in the services sector is the growth of  franchising,  an
operation in which a company owning the  rights  to  a  particular  form  of
trading licenses them to franchises, usually by means of an initial  payment
with continuing royalties. The main areas include  cleaning  services,  film
processing, print  shops,  hair-dressing  and  cosmetics,  fitness  centres,
courier delivery, car rental, engine tuning and  servicing,  and  fast  food
retailing. It is estimated that franchising’s share of  total  retail  sales
is over 3%, a figure which is likely to increase.


   The strength of the regular armed  forces,  all  volunteers,  was  nearly
271,000 in mid-1993 — 133,000 in the Army, 79,300 in  the  Royal  Air  Force
(RAF) and 58,500 in the Royal Navy and  Royal  Marines.  There  were  18,800
women personnel — 7,500 in the Army, 6,800 in the  RAF,  and  4,400  in  the
Royal Navy.

     British forces’ main military roles are to:

         . ensure the protection and security of Britain and  its  dependent

         . ensure against any major  external  threat  to  Britain  and  its
           allies; and

         . contribute towards promoting Britain’s wider  security  interests
           through the maintenance of international peace and security.

   Most of Britain’s nuclear and conventional forces are committed  to  NATO
and about 95% of defence expenditure to meeting its  NATO  responsibilities.
In recognition of the changed European security situation,  Britain’s  armed
forces are being restructured in consultation with other NATO allies.

   Under these plans, the strength of the armed forces is being cut by  22%,
leaving by the mid-1990s some 119,000 in the Army, 70,000  in  the  RAF  and
52,500 in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. This involves reductions  in
main equipment of:

   . three Tornado GR1 squadrons, four  Phantom  squadrons,  two  Buccaneer
     squadrons and part of a squadron of Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft;

   . 12 submarines, nine destroyers and frigates and 13 mine

   . countermeasures ships; and
   . 327 main battle tanks.

  Civilian staff employed by the Ministry of Defence will be  reduced  from
169,100 in 1991 to 135,000.
   As a member of  NATO,  Britain  fully  supports  the  Alliance’s  current
strategic concept, under which its tasks are to:

     . help to provide a stable security environment, in which  no  country
       is able to intimidate or dominate any European country  through  the
       threat or use of force;

     . serve as a transatlantic forum for  Allied  consultations  affecting
       member states’ vital interests; deter  from  aggression  and  defend
       member states against military attack; and

     . preserve the strategic balance within Europe.

                       THE PRESS, RADIO AND TELEVISION

   National Daily and Sunday Papers.

   The British buy more newspapers than any other people except  Swedes  and
the Japanese. The daily press differs in two obvious ways from that  of  any
similar western European country. First, all over Britain most  people  read
“national” papers, based in London, which altogether sell more  copies  than
all eighty-odd provincial papers  combined.  Second,  there  is  a  striking
difference between the five “quality” papers’ and the  six  mass-circulation
popular “tabloids”.

   These characteristics are still  more  salient  with  the  Sunday  press.
Almost no  papers  at  all  are  published  in  Britain  on  Sundays  except
“national” ones: six “popular”’ and five “quality” based  in  London.  Three
appear on Sundays only; the others are associated with  dailies  which  have
the  same  names  but  different  editors,  journalists  and  layouts.   The
“quality” Sunday papers devote large sections to literature  and  the  arts.
They have colour supplements and are in many ways more like  magazines  than
newspapers. They supply quite different worlds of taste  and  interest  from
the “popular” papers.

   Scotland has two important “quality” papers, “The Scotsman” in  Edinburgh
and the “Glasgow Herald”.

   The dominance of the national press reflects  the  weakness  of  regional
identity among the English. The gap  in  quality  is  not  so  much  between
Labour  and  Conservative,  as  between  levels  of  ability  to  read   and
appreciate serious news presented seriously. Of  the  five  quality  morning
papers only “The Daily Telegraph” is solidly Conservative;  nearly  all  its
readers are Conservatives. “The Times” and  “Financial  Times”  have  a  big
minority of non-Conservative readers. Of the popular papers only the  “Daily
Mirror” regularly supports Labour. Plenty  of  Labour  voters  read  popular
papers with Conservative inclinations, but  do  not  change  their  publican
opinion because of what they have read. Some of them are interested only  in
the human interest stories and in sport, and  may  well  hardly  notice  the
reporting of political and economic affairs.

      Except in central London there are very few newspaper kiosks  in  town
streets. This may be because most pavements are too narrow to have room  for
them. In towns the local evening papers are sold by elderly  men  and  women
who stand for many hours, stamping  their  feet  to  keep  warm.  Otherwise,
newspapers can be bought in shops or delivered to homes by  boys  and  girls
who want to earn money by doing “paper-rounds”.

   Most of the newspapers are owned by big companies,  some  of  which  have
vast interests in other things, ranging from  travel  agencies  to  Canadian
forests. Some have been dominated by strong  individuals.  The  greatest  of
the press “barons” have not  been  British  in  origin,  but  have  come  to
Britain from Canada,  Australia  or  Czechoslovakia.  The  most  influential
innovator of modern times is partly Indian, and spent  his  early  years  in
India. He pioneered the introduction of new technology in printing.

   Among the “quality” papers the strongly  Conservative  “Daily  Telegraph”
sells more than twice as many copies as any of the others. It costs less  to
buy and its reporting of events is very thorough. The “Financial Times”  has
a narrower appeal, but is not narrowly restricted  to  business  news.  “The
Guardian” has an old liberal tradition, and is in general  a  paper  of  the

   The most famous of all British newspapers is “The Times”. It is not  now,
and has never been, an organ of the government, and has  no  link  with  any
party.  In  1981  it  and  “The  Sunday  Times”’  were  taken  over  by  the
international press company of the Australian  Rupert  Murdoch,  which  also
owns two of the  most  “popular”  of  the  national  papers.  Its  editorial
independence is protected by a supervisory body, but in the 1980s it has  on
the whole been sympathetic to the  Conservative  government.  The  published
letters to the editor  have  often  been  influential,  and  some  lead  to,
prolonged discussion in further letters. Under the  Murdoch  regime  it  has
continued a movement away from its old austerity.

   The popular newspapers are now commonly called “tabloids”, a  word  first
used for  pharmaceutical  substances  compressed  into  pills.  The  tabloid
newspapers compress the news, and are printed  on  small  sheets  of  paper.
They use enormous headlines for the leading items of  each  day,  which  are
one day political, one day to do with crime, one day  sport,  one  day  some
odd happening. They have  their  pages  of  political  report  and  comment,
short,  often  over-simplified  but  vigorously   written   and   (nowadays)
generally responsible. They thrive on sensational stories and excitement.

   The two archetypal popular papers, the “Daily Mail”’ and “Daily  Express”
were both built up by individual tycoons in the  early  20th  century.  Both
had a feeling for the taste of a newly-literate public: if  a  man  bites  a
dog, that’s news. The “Daily Express” was built up by a man born in  Canada.
He became a great man in the land, a close friend and associate  of  Winston
Churchill, and a powerful minister in his War Cabinet.  The  circulation  of
the “Daily Express” at one time exceeded four million copies a day. Now  the
first Lord Beaverbrook is dead, and the daily sales are not much  more  than
half of their highest figure. The history of  the  “Daily  Mail”,  with  its
more conventional conservatism, is not greatly different.

   In popular journalism the “Daily Mirror” became a serious  rival  of  the
“Express” and “Mail” in  the  1940s.  It  was  always  tabloid,  and  always
devoted more space to picture than to text.  It  was  also  a  pioneer  with
strip cartoons. After the  Second  World  War  it  regularly  supported  the
Labour Party. It soon outdid the  “Daily  Express”  in  size  of  headlines,
short sentences and exploration of excitement. It also became  the  biggest-
selling daily newspaper. For many years its sales were about  four  million;
sometimes well above.

   Until the 1960s the old “Daily  Herald”  was  an  important  daily  paper
reflecting the views of the trade unions and the Labour Party. Then it  went
through several changes, until in the 1970s its successor,  “The  Sun”,  was
taken over by Mr Murdoch’s company. In its new  tabloid  form  it  became  a
right-wing rival to  the  “Daily  Mirror”,  with  huge  headlines  and  some
nudity. In the 1980s its sales reached four million and exceeded the  “Daily
Mirror”. Mr Murdoch’s News International already  owned  “The  News  of  the
World”’, a Sunday paper which has continued  to  give  special  emphasis  to
scandals. But by 1990  its  sales  were  only  two-thirds  of  their  former
highest figure of eight million.

   For a very long time the  press  has  been  free  from  any  governmental
interference. There has been no censorship,  no  subsidy.  But  for  several
decades it has seemed that some newspapers have  abused  their  freedom.  In
competing with one another to get stories to  satisfy  a  public  taste  for
scandal,  reporters  and  photographers  have   been   tempted   to   harass
individuals who have for one reason or another been  involved,  directly  or
indirectly, in events which could excite public curiosity. Prominent  people
of all kinds, as well as obscure people who come into the  news  as  victims
of crimes or accidents, have been pursued into their homes  for  photographs
and interviews.

   Local and Regional Papers.

   Local morning papers have suffered from the universal penetration of  the
London-based national press. Less than 20 survive in the whole England,  and
their combined circulation is much less than that of “The Sun” alone.  Among
local daily papers those published in the evenings are much more  important.
Each of about 70 towns has one, selling only within a radius of  50  to  100
kilometres. The two  London  evening  papers,  the  “News”  and  “Standard”,
together sold two million copies in 1980, but they could  not  survive,  and
merged into one, now called “The London Evening Standard”.

   Most local daily papers belong to one or other of the big press  empires,
which leave their local editors to decide editorial policy. Mostly they  try
to avoid any appearance of regular  partisanship,  giving  equal  weight  to
each major political party. They give heavy weight to local news and  defend
local interests and local industries.

   The total circulation of all provincial  daily  newspapers,  morning  and
evening together, is around eight million: about half as great  as  that  of
the national papers. In spite of this,  some  provincial  papers  are  quite
prosperous. They do not need their own foreign correspondents; they  receive
massive local advertising, particularly about things for sale.

   The truly local papers are weekly. They are  not  taken  very  seriously,
being  mostly  bought  for  the  useful  information  contained   in   their
advertisements. But for a foreign visitor wishing to learn something of  the
flavour of a local community, the weekly local paper can be useful. Some  of
these papers are  now  given  away,  not  sold  out  but  supported  by  the

   The Weekly and Periodical Press.

   Good English writing is often to be found in  the  weekly  political  and
literary journals, all based in London, all with nationwide circulations  in
the tens of thousands. “The Economist”, founded in  1841,  probably  has  no
equal everywhere. It has a coloured cover and a few photographs  inside,  so
that it looks like “Time”’, “Newsweek” or “Der  Spiegel”,  but  its  reports
have more depth and breadth than any these. It  covers  world  affairs,  and
even its American  section  is  more  informative  about  America  than  its
American equivalents. Although by no means “popular”, it is vigorous in  its
comments,  and  deserves  the  respect  in  which  it  is  generally   held.
“Spectator” is a weekly journal of  opinion.  It  regularly  contains  well-
written articles, often politically slanted.  It  devotes  nearly  half  its
space to literature and the arts.

   “The  Times”  has  three  weekly  supplements,  all  appeared  and   sold
separately. The “Literary Supplement” is devoted  almost  entirely  to  book
reviews, and covers all kinds of  new  literature.  It  makes  good  use  of
academic contributors, and has at last, unlike  “The  Economist”,  abandoned
its old tradition of anonymous reviews. “New Scientist”4, published  by  the
company which owns the “Daily Mirror”, has good and serious  articles  about
scientific research, often written by academics yet useful for  the  general

   One old British institution, the  satirical  weekly  “Punch”’,  survives,
more abrasive than in an earlier generation yet finding it hard to keep  the
place  it  once  had  in  a  more  secure  social  system.  Its  attraction,
particularly for one intellectual youth, has been surpassed by a new  rival,
“Private Eye”, founded in 1962 by people who, not long  before,  had  run  a
pupils’ magazine in Shrewsbury School. Its scandalous material is  admirably
written  on  atrocious  paper  and  its  circulation  rivals  that  of  “The

   Glossy weekly or monthly illustrated magazines cater either for women  or
for any of a thousand special interests. Almost all  are  based  in  London,
with national circulations, and  the  women’s  magazines  sell  millions  of
copies. These, along with commercial television, are the great educators  of
demand for the new and better goods offered by the modern consumer  society.
In any big newsagent’s shop the long  rows  of  brightly  covered  magazines
seem to go on for ever; beyond the large variety of  appeals  to  women  and
teenage girls come those concerned with yachting,  tennis,  model  railways,
gardening and cars. For  every  activity  there  is  a  magazine,  supported
mainly by its advertisers, and from time to time the police bring a pile  of
pornographic magazines to local magistrates, who have the difficult task  of
deciding whether they are sufficiently offensive to be banned.

   These specialist magazines are not  cheap.  They  live  off  an  infinite
variety of taste, curiosity and interest. Their  production,  week  by  week
and month by month, represents a fabulous amount of  effort  and  of  felled
trees. Television has not killed the desire to read.

   Radio and Television.

   Since the 1970s 98% of British households have had television  sets  able
to receive four channels,  two  put  out  by  the  BBC,  two  by  commercial
companies. Commercial satellite and cable TV began to grow significantly  in
1989-1990, and by 1991 the two  main  companies  operating  in  Britain  had
joined together as British Sky Broadcasting. By 1991 about one household  in
ten had the equipment to receive this material.

   Every household with TV must by law pay for a licence, which costs  about
the same for a year as a popular newspaper every day.

   Unlike the press, mass  broadcasting  has  been  subject  to  some  state
control from its early days. One agreed purpose  has  been  to  ensure  that
news, comment and discussion should  be  balanced  and  impartial,  free  of
influence by government or advertisers. From 1926 first radio,  then  TV  as
well, were entrusted to the BBC,  which  still  has  a  board  of  governors
appointed by the government. The BBC’s monopoly was ended in 1954,  when  an
independent board was appointed by the Home Secretary to  give  licences  to
broadcast  (“franchises”)   to   commercial   TV   companies   financed   by
advertising, and called  in  general  independent  television  (ITV).  These
franchises have been given only for a few years  at  a  time,  then  renewed
subject to various conditions.

   In 1990 Parliament passed a long and complex new Broadcasting  Act  which
made big changes in the arrangements for commercial TV and  radio.  The  old
Independent Broadcasting Authority,  which  had  given,  franchises  to  the
existing TV and radio companies, was abolished. In its place, for TV  alone,
a new Independent Television Commission was set up in 1991,  with  the  task
of awarding future franchises, early in the 1990s, either  to  the  existing
companies or to new rivals which were prepared to pay a  higher  price.  The
Commission also took  over  responsibility  for  licensing  cable  programme
services, including those satellite TV channels which are carried  on  cable
networks. The new law did not change the status of the BBC, but it did  have
the purpose of increasing competition, both  among  broadcasters  and  among
producers. It envisaged that a new commercial TV channel, TVS,  would  start
in the early 1990s.

   The general nature of the four TV channels  functioning  in  1991,  seems
likely to continue, with BBC1 and ITV producing a  broadly  similar  mixture
of programmes in competition with each other. ITV has a  complex  structure.
Its main news is run by one company, Independent Television News, its  early
morning TV— a.m. by another. There are  about  a  dozen  regional  companies
which broadcast in their regions for most each day, with up to  ten  minutes
of advertisements in each hour, between programmes or  as  interruptions  at
intervals of twenty or thirty  minutes.  These  regional  companies  produce
some programmes of  local  interest  and  some  which  they  sell  to  other
regions, so that for much of each day the  same  material  is  put  out  all
through the country. Some of BBCl’s programmes  are  similarly  produced  by
its regional stations. BBC2 and the independent Channel  4  (which  has  its
own company) are both used partly for special interest  programmes  and  for
such things as complete operas.

   By international standards it could reasonably be claimed that  the  four
regular  channels  together  provide  an  above-average  service,  with  the
balance giving something to please most tastes and preferences.  Some  quiz-
shows and “soap operas”’, or long-running sagas, attract  large  numbers  of
viewers and to some extent the BBC competes for  success  in  this  respect.
But minority preferences are not  overlooked.  In  Wales  there  are  Welsh-
language programmes for the few who want them. There  are  foreign  language
lessons for the general  pubic,  as  well  as  the  special  programmes  for
schools and the Open University2. BBC news has always kept a reputation  for
objectivity, and the independent news service is of similar quality.

   Television is probably the most important single factor in the continuous
contest for the public’s favour between the political parties.  Parties  and
candidates cannot buy advertising time. At intervals each  channel  provides
time for each of  the  three  main  political  parties  for  party-political
broadcasts, and during  an  election  campaign  a  great  deal  of  time  is
provided for parties’ election, always on an equal basis.

   Minor parties get time, based partly on the number of  their  candidates.
In Wales and Scotland the nationalist parties get TV time on the same  basis
as the three others. Studios and  transmitters  must  be  provided  free  of
charge. But often a party prefers to film a broadcast outside the studio  at
its own expense, for greater impact.

   BBC TV Europe broadcasts some of its own  programmes  by  satellite,  and
from 1991 BBC TV International  began  to  sell  and  distribute  its  World
Service TV news in English and some other languages.

   The BBC’s Radio 4 is the main general interest radio service,  with  some
items run by regional studios. Radio 3 is for minority interests,  including
music, “2” for light entertainment, “1” for pop music  and  “5”  for  sport,
education and children’s programmes. There are  also  several  dozens  local
BBC radio stations,  covering  the  whole  country.  The  world  wide  radio
service has been established for long time, and is the activity of  the  BBC
to receive a government subsidy.

   The BBC runs several dozens of local radio stations, which  compete  with
independent commercial rivals, financed by  advertisements.  All  provide  a
mixture of local news and comment, with some  entertainment  matter,  mainly
pop music, in between. In  the  1990s  there  should  be  one  or  more  new
commercial radio stations broadcasting nationwide, including  one  “non-pop”
station, possibly for continuous broadcasts of classical music.