Mass media in the United Kingdom

There are several different types of mass media in the United Kingdom: television, radio, newspapers, magazines and websites. The country also has a strong music industry.

The Television Centre, the headquarters of the BBC from 1960 to 2013.

The United Kingdom has a diverse range of providers, the most prominent being the publicly owned public service broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The BBC's largest competitors are ITV plc, which operates 13 of the 15 regional television broadcasters that make up the ITV Network, and American global media conglomerate Comcast, which owns the broadcaster Sky.

Regional media is covered by local radio, television and print newspapers. Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror) operates 240 local and regional newspapers. The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport has overall responsibility over media ownership and broadcasting.[1]


In 2009 it was estimated that individuals viewed a mean of 3.75 hours of television per day and listened to 2.81 hours of radio. The main BBC public service broadcasting channels accounted for and estimated 28.4% of all television viewing; the three main independent channels accounted for 29.5% and the increasingly important other satellite and digital channels for the remaining 42.1%.[2] Sales of newspapers have fallen since the 1970s and in 2009 42% of people reported reading a daily national newspaper.[3] In 2010, 82.5% of the United Kingdom population were Internet users, the highest proportion amongst the 20 countries with the largest total number of users in that year.[4]

National media centres and organisationsEdit

Mediacity in Greater Manchester, privately funded and publicly backed by the BBC is the largest media-production facility in the United Kingdom.


London dominates the media sector in the United Kingdom as national newspapers, television and radio networks are largely based there. Notable centres include Fleet Street and BBC Broadcasting House.

Specialist local paper City A.M. is a free, business-focused newspaper published in print Monday to Friday. It is typically available from around 6 am at London commuter stations and is handed out at key points in the City, Canary Wharf and other central London locations.

Greater ManchesterEdit

Greater Manchester is also a significant national media hub. Notable centres include MediaCityUK a 200-acre (80ha) media production facility in Salford and Trafford.

The Guardian national newspaper was founded in Manchester in 1821, and was known as the Manchester Guardian until 1959. In the 1950s, coinciding with the growth in television, the Granada Television franchise was set up by Sidney Bernstein. Consequently, the Granada Studios were the first purpose-built television studios in the United Kingdom. The franchise produced television programmes such as Coronation Street and the Up Series. The BBC currently has two of its six major business divisions based here BBC North Group that comprises a number of important departments including BBC Breakfast, BBC Children's, BBC Sport, BBC Radio 5 and BBC North West. The other division is BBC Future Media. In addition ITV has two major divisions of its business based here ITV Studios responsible for UK and international network production and ITV Granada its regional service provider. The University of Salford also has a media campus and research center based at media city.[5]

The United Kingdom is known for its large music industry, along with its new and upcoming artists. In the UK, media is spread through the forms of TV, newspapers, magazines, websites, and radio.

Other key centresEdit

Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Cardiff are important centres of newspaper and broadcasting production in Scotland and Wales respectively.[6]

The BBC, founded in 1922, is the United Kingdom's publicly funded radio, television and Internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates numerous television and radio stations in the United Kingdom and abroad and its domestic services are funded by the television licence.[7][8]

Other major players in the United Kingdom media include ITV plc, which operates 11 of the 15 regional television broadcasters that make up the ITV Network,[9] and News Corporation, which owns a number of national newspapers through News International such as the tabloid The Sun and "broadsheet" The Times.[10][11]


The United Kingdom print publishing sector, including books, server, directories and databases, journals, magazines and business media, newspapers and news agencies, has a combined turnover of around £20 billion and employs around 167,000 people.[12]

According to a 2021 report by the Media Reform Coalition, 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), News UK and DMG Media. This figure was up from 83% in 2019.[13] The report also found that six companies operate 83% of local newspapers. The three largest local publishers—Newsquest, Reach and JPI Media—each control a fifth of local press market, more than the share of the smallest 50 local publishers combined.[13]


Traditionally British newspapers have been divided into "quality", serious-minded newspapers (usually referred to as "broadsheets" because of their large size) and the more "tabloid" varieties. For convenience of reading many traditional broadsheets have switched to a more compact-sized format, traditionally used by tabloids. In 2008 The Sun had the highest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom at 3.1 million, approximately a quarter of the market.[14] Its sister paper, the News of the World, had the highest circulation in the Sunday newspaper market,[14] until its closure in 2011.[15]

The Guardian is a liberal, "quality" broadsheet and the Financial Times is the main business newspaper, printed on distinctive salmon-pink broadsheet paper.[16] Reach plc, which operates 240 local and regional newspapers in the United Kingdom as well as the national newspapers Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People, purchased Northern & Shell in 2018, thus adding the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star to its stable.[17][18]

Scotland has a distinct tradition of newspaper readership (see list of newspapers in Scotland). The tabloid Daily Record has the highest circulation of any daily newspaper, outselling The Scottish Sun by four to one, while its sister paper the Sunday Mail similarly leads the Sunday newspaper market. The leading "quality" daily newspaper in Scotland is The Herald, though it is the sister paper of The Scotsman, and the Scotland on Sunday that leads in the Sunday newspaper market.[19] In November 2014, a new newspaper was launched in Scotland called The National.[20]

In 2018, News UK (The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun) and The Daily Telegraph created a joint platform for advertisers to buy online adverts across the multiple leading news websites, called The Ozone Project.[21] Later in the year Reach plc joined the platform, bringing nearly all of UK's national newspapers onto the platform.[22] As of 2020, the newspaper with the highest circulation is the Metro with 1,426,535 readers.[23] The Sun and other tabloid daily newspapers have seen a drop in circulation.[23]

Broadsheet and former broadsheet newspapersEdit

Title Days of
Circulation Established Editor Owner Political
Political party support
in the 2019 general election
The Daily Telegraph Daily N/A 1855 Chris Evans Press Holdings (Frederick Barclay) Right-wing Conservative Party Broadsheet
The Sunday Telegraph Sundays 1961 Allister Heath
The Times Daily 1785 John Witherow News Corporation Centre-right Compact
The Sunday Times Sundays 1821 Emma Tucker Broadsheet
Financial Times Daily 104,024 1888 Roula Khalaf Nikkei Inc. Centrist None
The Guardian Daily 111,953 1821 Katharine Viner Scott Trust Limited's Guardian Media Group. Centre-left Labour Party Compact
The Observer Sundays 152,129 1791 Paul Webster None
i Daily 148,163 2010 Oliver Duff Daily Mail and General Trust Centrist
i Weekend Saturdays N/A 2017
The Independent N/A 1986 Chris Broughton Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel
Alexander Lebedev
Evgeny Lebedev
Online only

Tabloid newspapersEdit

Title Days of publication Format Established Editor Owner Political
Political party support
in the 2019 general election
Daily Mail Daily Broadsheet (1896 – 1971)

Tabloid (since 1971)

1896 Geordie Greig Daily Mail and General Trust plc Right-wing, conservative Conservative Party
The Mail on Sunday Sundays Tabloid 1982
Daily Express Daily Broadsheet (1900 – 1977)

Tabloid (since 1978)

1900 Gary Jones Reach Right-wing, conservative
Sunday Express Sundays Broadsheet (1918 – 1992)

Tabloid (since 1992)

1918 Michael Booker
The Sun Daily Tabloid 1964 Tony Gallagher News Corporation Right-wing, conservative
The Sun on Sunday Sundays Tabloid 2012
Daily Mirror Daily Tabloid 1903 Lloyd Embley Reach Centre-left Labour Party
Sunday Mirror Sundays Tabloid 1915
Sunday People Sundays Tabloid 1881 Paul Henderson
Daily Star Daily Tabloid 1978 Jon Clark Largely non-political None
Daily Star Sunday Sundays Tabloid 2002 Stuart James
Morning Star Daily Tabloid 1930 Ben Chacko People's Press Printing Society Left-wing, socialist Labour Party
Eastern Eye Weekly Tabloid 1989 Asian Media Group None

Freesheet newspapers in urban centresEdit

Title Days of publication Format Established Editor Owner Political
Evening Standard Weekdays (evening) Tabloid 1827 George Osborne Alexander Lebedev (75.1%)
Lord Rothermere (24.9%)
Centre-right, conservative Greater London
Metro Weekdays Tabloid 1999 Ted Young Daily Mail and General Trust plc Non-partisan, neutral (self-claim) Wide availability in the major cities
City A.M. Weekdays (morning) Tabloid 2005 Christian May City A.M. Ltd Centre-right, conservative Wide availability in the major cities
The Shuttle Weekly Tabloid 1870 Peter John Newsquest Media Group Local politics Wyre Forest area of Worcestershire
Asian Express Weekly Tabloid 1999 Media Buzz Ltd
Yorkshire Reporter Monthly Tabloid 2013 Pick up Publications Ltd Widely available in Leeds and its surrounding areas
Asian Standard Weekly Tabloid 2017 RF Publishing Ltd Widely available as regional titles in Bradford, Kirklees, North East and Leeds


A large range of magazines are sold in the United Kingdom covering most interests and potential topics. British magazines and journals that have achieved worldwide circulation include The Economist, Prospect, Nature, New Scientist, New Statesman, Private Eye, The Spectator, the Radio Times, and NME.




Picture of a Truetone brand radio

Radio in the United Kingdom is dominated by the BBC, which operates radio stations both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in 33 languages globally. Domestically the BBC also operates ten national networks and over 40 local radio stations including services in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru, Gaelic on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland.[24] The domestic services of the BBC are funded by the television licence.[25] The internationally targeted BBC World Service Radio is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, though from 2014 it will be funded by the television licence.[26] The most popular radio station by number of listeners is BBC Radio 2, closely followed by BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 1. Advances in digital radio technology have enabled the launch of several new stations by the Corporation.[27]

Rather than operating as independent entities, many commercial local radio stations are owned by large radio groups which broadcast a similar format to many areas. The largest operator of radio stations is Global Radio, owner of the major Heart, Smooth and Capital radio brands. It also owns Classic FM, Smooth Radio and Radio X. Other owners are Wireless Group and Bauer Radio. There are a number of licensed community radio stations[28] which broadcast to local audiences.


The United Kingdom has no analogue television. A free to air digital service is made up of two chartered public broadcasting companies, the BBC and Channel 4 and two franchised commercial television companies, (ITV and Channel 5) specializing in entertainment, drama, arts, nature, documentary, sports, comedy etc. In addition to this, the United Kingdom's free-to-air Freeview service runs a large number of entertainment, music, sport and shopping channels from the likes of CBS, UKTV and Sky. There are five major nationwide television channels: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 — currently transmitted by digital terrestrial, free-to-air signals with the latter three channels funded by commercial advertising. The vast majority of digital cable television services are provided by Virgin Media with satellite television available from Freesat or Sky and free-to-air digital terrestrial television by Freeview. The entire country switched to digital (from a previously analogue signal) in 2012.[29]

The BBC operates several television channels in the United Kingdom and abroad. The BBC's international television news service, BBC World News, is broadcast throughout the world. The domestic services of the BBC are funded by the television licence[25]and not only operates BBC One and BBC Two, but also BBC Four, the BBC News, BBC Parliament and children's television channels CBBC and CBeebies. The international television broadcast services are operated by BBC Studios on a commercial subscription basis over cable and satellite services. This commercial arm of the BBC also owns UKTV.[30]

Channel 4 is similarly chartered to the BBC, with a remit to provide public service broadcasting and schools programs, however it runs commercial advertisements to provide a revenue stream. It produces a number of digital channels, branded as Channel 4, as well as More4 and Film4.

The commercial operators rely on advertising for their revenue, and are run as commercial ventures, in contrast to the public service operators. The ITV franchise transmits the 3 different networks in different parts of the country. These are known as ITV in England, Wales, Scottish Borders, Isle of Man and Channel Islands, STV in Central and Northern Scotland, and UTV in Northern Ireland. ITV also operates ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, and CITV - the latter which is for children - via ITV Digital Channels. The broadcaster Sky owns several flagship channels, including Sky Arts, Sky Nature, Sky Cinema and Sky Atlantic.[31]

The Royal Television Society (RTS) is an educational charity for the discussion, and analysis of television in all its forms, past, present, and future. It is the oldest television society in the world.[32]


The United Kingdom has been involved with the Internet throughout its origins and development. The telecommunications infrastructure in the United Kingdom provides Internet access to businesses and home users in various forms, including fibre, cable, DSL, wireless and mobile.

The share of households with internet access in the United Kingdom grew from 9 percent in 1998 to 93 percent in 2019. Virtually all adults aged 16 to 44 years in the UK were recent internet users (99%) in 2019, compared with 47% of adults aged 75 years and over; in aggregate, the third-highest in Europe. Online shoppers in the UK spend more per household than consumers in any other country. Internet bandwidth per Internet user was the 7th highest in the world in 2016, and average and peak internet connection speeds were top-quartile in 2017. Internet use in the United Kingdom doubled in 2020. The United Kingdom's most visited websites include,,,,, and[33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  2. ^ Ofcom "Communication Market Report 2010", 19 August 2010, pp. 97, 164 and 191, retrieved 17 June 2011.
  3. ^ "Social Trends: Lifestyles and social participation", Office for National Statistics, 16 February 2010, archived from the original on 24 June 2011.
  4. ^ "Top 20 countries with the highest number of Internet users", Internet World Stats, archived from the original on 10 June 2011.
  5. ^ UK Campus, Media City. "Courses and Training". Research Center. University of Salford. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  6. ^ D. William, UK Cities: A Look at Life and Major Cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Godfrey Mwakikagile, 2010), ISBN 9987-16-021-2, pp. 22, 46, 109 and 145.
  7. ^ Newswire7 (13 August 2009), "BBC: World's largest broadcaster & Most trusted media brand", Media Newsline, archived from the original on 10 May 2011.
  8. ^ "TV Licence Fee: facts & figures", BBC Press Office, April 2010, archived from the original on 27 April 2011.
  9. ^ "Publications & Policies: The History of ITV",, archived from the original on 11 April 2011.
  10. ^ "Publishing", News Corporation, archived from the original on 4 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Direct Broadcast Satellite Television", News Corporation, archived from the original on 4 June 2011.
  12. ^ "Publishing", Department of Culture, Media and Sport, archived from the original on 5 May 2011.
  13. ^ a b Chivers, Tom (14 March 2021). "Report: Who Owns the UK Media?" (PDF). Media Reform Coalition. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  14. ^ a b "ABCs: National daily newspaper circulation September 2008". The Guardian. UK. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  15. ^ "Phone-hacking probe: 'Thank you & goodbye', says NoW". BBC News. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  16. ^ Lyall, Sarah (24 February 2010). "British Panel Condemns Media Group in Phone Hacking Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  17. ^ "Trinity Mirror plc: Annual Report and Accounts 2010" (PDF), Trinity Mirror, 2010, archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2011.
  18. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte (20 June 2018). "Culture Secretary gives green light to Reach takeover of Express Newspapers". Press Gazette. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  19. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (9 May 2008), "Scottish Sun pulls further ahead of Record",, archived from the original on 16 March 2009.
  20. ^ Sweney, Mark (21 November 2014). "Pro-independence daily paper the National to launch in Scotland". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  21. ^ Waterson, Jim (20 June 2018). "Guardian, News UK and Telegraph launch joint advertising business". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  22. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte (11 September 2018). "Joint advertising platform becomes 'truly cross-industry initiative' as Reach unites with News UK, Guardian and Telegraph". Press Gazette. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  23. ^ a b Mayhew, Freddy (20 February 2020). "National newspaper ABCs: Daily Star Sunday sees biggest print drop in first 2020 circulation figures". Press Gazette.
  24. ^ "News and Analysis in your language". BBC. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  25. ^ a b "TV Licence Fee: facts & figures". BBC Press Office. Archived from the original on 7 September 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  26. ^ "BBC Funding Settlements: the details". OFCOMWATCH. October 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  27. ^ "BBC7 radio launches with comedy", BBC News, 16 December 2002, retrieved 10 July 2011.
  28. ^ "Map of Community radio stations broadcasting in the UK".
  29. ^ "What is digital switchover". Directgov. December 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
  30. ^ Ofcom "Communication Market Report 2010", 19 August 2010, pp. 97, 164 and 191, retrieved 17 June 2011.
  31. ^ "What channels are on Sky TV?". Uswitch. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  32. ^ "Royal Television Society". Royal Television Society. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  33. ^ "Top Ranking Websites in United Kingdom". SimilarWeb.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit