Articles

The media & the 1975 Referendum campaign (features the Daily Mail)

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2016 by kmflett

The media & the 1975 Referendum

bennmail

The role and influence of the media in the 2016 EU Referendum campaign has been the subject of some discussion.

Statistics from Loughborough University have shown that Labour politicians (backing remain) have received far less broadcast media coverage than assorted Tories (remain and leave) and that the print media has been very largely for leave (with the exception of The Guardian, the Mirror and more strikingly the Times).

Given the multiplicity of media outlets and social media I’m far from sure how much influence the traditional print and broadcast media still have. Committed activists aside (& I’m one of course) I hear little discussion of the Referendum in pubs and on public transport. What I do hear tends to be from people who appear to be even older than myself…

In the last Referendum on Europe in 1975 the print media were by contrast very largely for staying ‘in’ Europe and relentlessly harried those who wanted to leave, led of course by the Daily Mail (the Sun was still getting into its full Murdochian stride in 1975).

Some of this is captured in Tony Benn’s Diaries for the period,

On Sunday 11th May 1975 the Sunday Mirror ran an article by the hard-line right-wing former Labour MP Woodrow Wyatt ‘Bye, bye Benn’. This addressed media speculation that Wilson would sack Benn from the Cabinet after the Referendum result. Benn’s Diary noted that there were 8 press cars outside of his flat and that journalists had also taken a lease on a flat opposite to keep him under constant watch. Benn records complaining to the Daily Mail about harassment after persistent, completely false, stories that a member of his family was in hospital.

He went so far as to speak directly to the Night Editor about the matter and threaten a reference to the police.

Benn was no happier with the BBC describing it on 14th May as a ‘hot bed of pro-Market people’. He noted receiving death threats and met with Special Branch about these. They felt that murder was unlikely but ‘there may be a risk of you getting biffed’.

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