Power Without Responsibility : Press, Broadcasting and the Internet in Britain book cover
8th Edition

Power Without Responsibility
Press, Broadcasting and the Internet in Britain

ISBN 9780415710428
Published June 29, 2018 by Routledge
584 Pages

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Book Description

This book attacks the conventional history of the press as a story of progress; offers a critical defence and history of public service broadcasting; provides a myth-busting account of the internet; a subtle account of the impact of social media and explores key debates about the role and politics of the media.

It has become a standard book on media and other courses: but it has also gone beyond an academic audience to reach a wider public. Hailed as ‘a classic of media history and analysis’ by the Irish Times and a book that has ‘cracked the canon’ by the Times Higher, it has been translated into five languages.

This edition contains six new chapters. These include the press and the remaking of Britain, the rise of the neo-liberal Establishment, the moral decline of journalism, the impact of social media and a history of attempts to reform the press. It contains new research on the relationship between programmes, institutions and society. It places key UK institutions in the wider context of international affairs and their impact. The book has been updated to take account of new developments like Brexit and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the shift in authority and legitimacy prompted by social media. It does this with a clear explanation of how policy can shape media outcomes.

Table of Contents

Part I

Press history

James Curran

  1. Press history as political mythology
  2. The struggle for a free press
  3. Janus face of reform
  4. Industrialization of the press
  5. Era of the press barons
  6. Press under public regulation
  7. Post-war press: fable of progress
  8. Press and the remaking of Britain
  9. Rise of the neo-liberal Establishment
  10. Moral decline of the press
  11. Part II

    Broadcasting history

    Jean Seaton

  12. Reith and the denial of politics
  13. Broadcasting and the Blitz
  14. Public service commerce: ITV, new audiences and new revenue
  15. Foreign affairs: the BBC, the world and the government
  16. Class, taste and profit
  17. Managers, regulators and broadcasters
  18. Public service under attack
  19. Broadcasting roller-coaster
  20. Part III

    Rise of new media

  21. New media in Britain – James Curran
  22. History of the internet – James Curran
  23. Sociology of the internet – James Curran
  24. Social media: making new societies or polarization – Jean Seaton
  25. Part IV

    Theories of the media

    Jean Seaton

  26. Metabolising Britishness
  27. Global understanding
  28. Broadcasting and the theory of public service
  29. Part V

    Politics of the media

  30. Industrial folklore and press reform – James Curran
  31. Contradictions in media policy – James Curran and Jean Seaton
  32. Media reform: democratic choices – James Curran



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James Curran is Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Jean Seaton is Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster, and Director of the Orwell Foundation.


‘This is the book that changed everything in media studies.’

Sally Young, University of Melbourne

‘This is a brilliant seminal history of broadcasting, press and the new media, vividly and insightfully told, with sharp vignettes of political interference and policy challenges. It is a powerful reminder of why public service broadcasting and truthful communication is vital to our democracy.’

Baroness Helena Kennedy, President of Mansfield College, Oxford

‘This skillfully revised and updated edition of Curran and Seaton’s magnificent history is just as fresh and relevant now as it has been over the decades.’

David Hesmondhalgh, Leeds University

‘The pleasure of a classic that just keeps redelivering. Power Without Responsibility proves itself yet again as the go-to source for analysis of the British media at their best and worst.’

Barbie Zelizer, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania

‘If I was able to suggest one book about the history of journalism – whether to a student, a journalist or someone who simply wanted to know more about the role of the news media in our democracy – it would be Power Without Responsibility. Much of our understanding of the past is altered by the present, so we are all indebted to James Curran and Jean Seaton for this excellent new edition. There has been no shortage of controversies and debates about the news media in recent years: this book guides us through them with a sharp eye, a clear head, and the wisdom that comes from a formidable sense of history. Packed with eloquently delivered information, it is analytical but jargon-free, critical without ever being doctrinaire.’

Justin Lewis, Cardiff University