History of British Newspapers Britain’s press can trace its history back more than 300 years, to the time of William of Orange. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, which started life as the Worcester Postman in 1690 and was published regularly from 1709, is believed to be the oldest surviving English newspaper. William Caxton had introduced the first English printing press in 1476 and, by the early 16th century, the first ‘news papers’ were seen in Britain. They were, however, slow to evolve, with the largely illiterate population relying on town criers for news.
Between 1640 and the Restoration, around 30,000 ‘news letters’ and ‘news papers’ were printed, many of which can be seen today in the British Museum. The first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was launched with the reign of Queen Anne in 1702. Timeline 1476William Caxton sets up the first English printing press in Westminster. 1549First known English newsletter: Requests of the Devonshyre and Cornyshe Rebelles. 1621First titled newspaper, Corante, published in London. 1649Cromwell suppressed all newsbooks on the eve of Charles I’s execution. 1690Worcester Postman launched. In 1709 it starts regular publication as Berrow’s Worcester Journal, considered to be the oldest surviving English newspaper). 1702Launch of the first regular daily newspaper: The Daily Courant. 1709First Copyright Act; Berrow’s Worcester Journal, considered the oldest surviving English newspaper, started regular publication. 1712First Stamp Act; advertisement, paper and stamp duties condemned as taxes on knowledge. Stamford Mercury believed to have been launched. 1718Leeds Mercury started (later merged into Yorkshire Post). 1737Belfast News Letter founded (world’s oldest surviving daily newspaper). 748Aberdeen Journal began (Scotland’s oldest newspaper – now the Press & Journal). 1772Hampshire Chronicle launched, Hampshire’s oldest paper. 1788Daily Universal Register (est. 1785) became The Times. 1791The Observer launched. 1835Libel Act; truth allowed as defence for first time in Britain. 1836The Newspaper Society founded. 1844The Southport Visiter first published. 1848The first issue of the Brechin Advertiser was published on Tuesday 3 October 1848. 1853Ormskirk Advertiser and Birkenhead News first published. 1855Stamp duty abolished. Daily Telegraph started as first penny national.
Manchester Guardian, The Scotsman and Liverpool Post became daily. Shields Gazette is the first of 17 regional evenings founded this year. 1868Press Association set up as a national news agency. 1889First Official Secrets Act. 1905Harmsworth (then Northcliffe) bought The Observer. 1906Newspaper Proprietors Association founded for national dailies. 1907National Union of Journalists founded as a wage-earners union. 1915Rothermere launched Sunday Pictorial (later Sunday Mirror). 1922Death of Northcliffe. Control of Associated Newspapers passed to Rothermere. 1928Northcliffe Newspapers set up as a subsidiary of Associated Newspapers.
Provincial Newspapers set up as a subsidiary of United Newspapers. 1931Audit Bureau of Circulations formed. 1936Britain’s first colour advertisement appears (in Glasgow’s Daily Record). 1944Iliffe took over BPM Holdings (including Birmingham Post). 1946Guild of British Newspaper Editors formed (now the Society of Editors). 1953General Council of the Press established. 1955Month-long national press strike. Daily Record acquired by Mirror Group. 1959Manchester Guardian becomes The Guardian. Six-week regional press printing strike. 1960sPhotocomposition and web-offset printing progressively introduced. 964The Sun launched, replacing Daily Herald. Death of Beaverbrook. General Council of the Press reformed as the Press Council. 1969Murdoch’s News International acquired The Sun and News of the World. 1976Nottingham Evening Post is Britain’s first newspaper to start direct input by journalists. 1978The Times and The Sunday Times ceased publication for 11 months. 1980Association of Free Newspaper founded (folded 1991). Regional Newspaper Advertising Bureau formed. 1981News International acquired The Times and the Sunday Times. 1983Industrial dispute at Eddie Shah’s Messenger group plant at Warrington. 984Mirror Group sold by Reed to Maxwell (Pergamon). First free daily newspaper, the (Birmingham) Daily News, launched by husband & wife team Chris & Pat Bullivant. 1986News International moved titles to a new plant at Wapping. Eddie Shah launched Today, first colour national daily launched. The Independent launched. 1987News International took over Today. 1988RNAB folded. Newspaper Society launched PressAd as its commercial arm. Thomson launched Scotland on Sunday and Sunday Life. 1989Last Fleet Streetpaper produced by Sunday Express. 1990First Calcutt report on Privacy and Related Matters.
Launch of The European (by Maxwell) and Independent on Sunday. 1991Press Complaints Commission replaced the Press Council. AFN folded. Death of Robert Maxwell (November). Management buy-out of Birmingham Post and sister titles. Midland Independent Newspapers established. 1992Management buy-out by Caledonian Newspapers of Lonrho’s Glasgow titles, The Herald and Evening Times. 1993Guardian Media Group bought The Observer. UK News set up by Northcliffe and Westminster Press as rival news agency to the Press Association. Second Calcutt report into self-regulation of the press. 994Northcliffe Newspapers bought Nottingham Evening Post for ? 93m. News International price-cutting sparked off new national cover-price war. 1995Lord Wakeham succeeded Lord McGregor as chairman of the PCC. Privacy white paper rejected statutory press controls. Most of Thomson’s regional titles sold to Trinity. Newsquest formed out of a Reed MBO. Murdoch closes Today (November). 1996A year of buyouts, mergers and restructuring in the regional press. Regionals win the battle over cross-media ownership (Broadcasting Act). Newspaper Society launches NS Marketing, replacing PressAd. 997Midland Independent Newspapers is bought by Mirror Group for ? 297 million. Human Rights and Data Protection bills are introduced. 1998Fourth largest regional press publisher, United Provincial Newspapers, is sold in two deals: UPN Yorkshire and Lancashire newspapers sold to Regional Independent Media for ? 360m and United Southern Publications sold to Southnews for ? 47. 5m. Southern Newspapers changes its name to Newscom, following acquisitions in Wales and the West (including UPN Wales in 1996). Death of Lord Rothermere. Chairmanship of Associated Newspapers passes to his son Jonathan Harmsworth.
Death of David English, editor-in-chief of Daily Mail and chairman of the editors’ code committee. 1999Trinity merges with Mirror Group Newspapers in a deal worth ? 1. 3 billion. Newsquest is bought by US publisher Gannett for ? 904 million. Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers is bought by Johnston Press for ? 266m. Major regional press groups launch electronic media alliances (eg, This is Britain, Fish4 sites. ) Freedom of Information bill introduced. Associated launches London’s free commuter daily, Metro. 2000Newscom is sold to Newsquest Media Group for ? 44m, Adscene titles are sold to Southnews (? 52m)and Northcliffe Newspapers, Belfast Telegraph Newspapers are sold by Trinity Mirror to Independent News & Media for ? 300m, Bristol United Press is sold to Northcliffe Newspapers Group, and Southnews is sold to Trinity Mirror for ? 285m. Daily Express and Daily Star are sold by Lord Hollick’s United News & Media to Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell. Launch of Scottish business daily Business a. m. and more Metro daily frees. Newspaper Society launches internet artwork delivery system AdFast. Communications white paper published. 001RIM buys six Galloway and Stornaway Gazette titles, Newsquest buys Dimbleby Newspaper Group and Johnston Press buys four titles from Morton Media Group. UK Publishing Media formed. Sunday Business changes name to The Business and publishes on Sunday and Monday. 2002Johnston Press acquires Regional Independent Media’s 53 regional newspaper titles in a ? 560 million deal. Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd acquires Hill Bros (Leek) Ltd. Queen attends Newspaper Society annual lunch. New PCC chairman, Christopher Meyer, announced. Draft Communications Bill published. The Sun and Mirror engage in a price war. 003Conrad Black resigns as chief executive of Hollinger International, owner of Telegraph group. Claverly Company, owner of Midland News Association, buys Guiton Group, publisher of regional titles in the Channel Islands. Archant buys 12 London weekly titles from Independent News & Media (December) and the remaining 15 the following month (January 04). Independent begins the shift to smaller format national newspapers when it launched its compact edition. Sir Christopher Meyer becomes chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. DCMS select committee chaired by Gerald Kaufman into privacy and the press.
Government rejects calls for a privacy law. 2004Phillis Report on Government Communications published (January). Barclay Brothers buy Telegraph group and poach Murdoch Maclennan from Associated to run it. Kevin Beatty moves from Northcliffe Newspapers to run Associated Newspapers. Trinity Mirror sells Century Newspapers and Derry Journal in Northern Ireland to 3i. Tindle Newspapers sells Sunday Independent in Plymouth to Newsquest. The Times goes compact (November). 2005Johnston Press buys Score Press from EMAP for ? 155m. Launch of free Lite editions for London Evening Standard and Manchester Evening News.
The Times puts up cover price to 60p, marking the end of the nationals’ price war. The Guardian moves to Berliner format after ? 80m investment in new presses. DMGT puts Northcliffe Newspapers up for sale; bids expected to open at ? 1. 2 billion. Johnston Press buys Scotsman Publications from Barclay Brothers for ? 160m. 2006DMGT sale of Northcliffe group aborted but DC Thomson acquires Aberdeen Press & Journal. Trinity Mirror strategic review: Midlands and South East titles put up for sale. Growth of regional press digital platforms. Manchester Evening News city edition goes free. Government threat to limit Freedom of Information requests.
Associated and News International both launch free evening papers in London during the autumn. 2007Archant Scotland acquired by Johnston Press. Northcliffe Media buys three regional newspaper businesses from Trinity Mirror; Kent Regional Newspapers, East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers and Blackmore Vale Publishing. Dunfermline Press Group acquires Berkshire Regional Newspapers from Trinity Mirror. Tindle Newspapers buys 27 local weekly newspapers from Trinity Mirror which retains its Midlands titles. The government abandons plans to tighten Freedom of Information laws and limit media access to coroners’ courts.
Former Hollinger International chief executive Conrad Black is sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for fraud. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation buys Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, appointing News International boss Les Hinton as chief executive. 2008The global economic downturn hit advertising revenues and shares of media companies fell sharply during the year. John Fry was announced as Tim Bowdler’s successor at Johnston Press in September. The Independent announced a plan to move to DMGT’s Kensington building to cut costs in November.
The BBC Trust rejected plans for local video that would have a negative impact on regional titles in the same month following a sustained campaign by the NS. 2009Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev acquires the London Evening Standard from Daily Mail & General Trust and the title is subsequently relaunched as a free newspaper. Baroness Peta Buscombe is appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. 2010Britain officially emerges from the longest and deepest recession since the war. Lebedev acquires the Independent and Independent on Sunday from Independent News & Media for a nominal fee of ? 1.
Trinity Mirror acquires GMG Regional Media, publisher of 32 titles, from Guardian Media Group for ? 44. 8 million. News International erects paywalls around its online content for The Times and The Sunday Times. Eleven regional print titles are launched by seven publishers in the first six months of the year. Newly-elected coalition government announces it will look at the case for relaxing cross-media ownership rules and stop unfair competition from council newspapers. The Independent launches i, a digest newspaper to complement their main title, and the first daily paper to be launched in the UK in almost 25 years.