It started out innocently enough.
I was on the Jubilee line with a few friends on our way for a night out to the theater. We were sitting quietly when my friend picked up a copy of the Daily Star, one of Britain’s many tabloids, and started flipping absent-mindedly through the pages. A moment later, I heard her yelp:
“Oh my God! Christina, you need to see this.”
“What?” I asked.
“Just look,” she said. She handed me the copy with the page marked off. I opened it nonchalantly, expecting to see some lurid headline about a drugged-out pop star or anorexic supermodel. Instead, my eyes fell upon a busty blonde. Or, shall I say, a busty, topless blonde.
Incidents like those are a good descriptor of British media and sum up their character: the media here is brash, bold and brazen. It’s unafraid and unapologetic. And they always, always leave you wondering, sometimes out loud: How can they legally print this? What about the children?!
The majority of newspapers here are of the infamous tabloids of the ink-rubs-off-on-your-fingers, screaming-in-your-face-headlines variety. They are so ubiquitous that even to this journalism student, they all start to blend together after a while. The Daily Express could be the Daily Star which could be the Daily Mail (although I haven’t seen a pair of DD’s in the Daily Mail the few times I’ve read it).
The only broadsheet I’ve come across so far is the Guardian and I try to stick to that whenever possible. It’s partly because it’s the closest thing I’ve found to The New York Times and partly because I love that it devotes an entire section to media coverage on Mondays.
Most of the time, I don’t feel like paying 40 pence for The Guardian, so I pick up a free copy of thelondonpaper, the Metro or London Lite — all of which are handed out (or, better yet, shoved in your face) outside nearly every Tube station. They all remind me of a lengthier, more gossipy and fun amNY, the paper that I typically get outside Penn Station. They are colorful, funny and know what the 18-24 demographic wants to read. My only complaint is that, not surprisingly, they are light and not so in-depth on news that is deemed “important” by their more traditional, Fourth Estate counterparts. I prefer thelondonpaper for no particular reason and read it on the Tube with the hopes of passing myself off as a real, commuting Londoner.
This all took a little getting used to, despite the fact I’ve worked full-time for one of the brashest, most unapologetic American tabloids out there and have taken part in that culture and genuinely loved just about every minute of it. Even the boldness of The New York Post that I love so much pales in comparison to even the tamest of the tabs here. To be honest, I’m glad.
As for television, simply put, if you want to own one you must fork over 135.50 pounds annually (more than $270 for those of you who aren’t checking the ever-worsening exchange rate). This is just to get your basic, public-service broadcasting channels like the BBC (whose source of revenue is a licensing fee). From my understanding, this is done so that BBC can make their money without running loads of advertisements.
Considering American access to the network channels at home, this concept seems like a rip-off. More significantly, though, is that it is limiting an entire segment of the population — namely, the poor — from free and unrestricted access to the press. The truly destitute aren’t going to spend that money on television when they are struggling to put food on the kitchen table for their children, but that’s just the bleeding-heart liberal in me.
I have, admittedly, less knowledge about British television, but there is a reason. I rarely watch the “telly” here. I don’t have one in my room. Why, do you ask? Well, it didn’t fit in my suitcase, silly. I didn’t want to buy one that I would use for only three months. Of course, there’s the nudity factor I’d like to avoid — topless women and men’s tushes abound on some Channel 4 dating show I stumbled upon last week. Coming from the States where the FCC would be all over this, I’m still trying to figure out what this is all about.
Medill junior Christina Amoroso is currently studying abroad in London. Read about her day-to-day experiences in her New York Post blog.