United Kingdom | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


The British government exerted undue pressure on the media during 2003. Media outlets were criticized for their coverage of the Iraq war, which was counter to the government position. The state-owned BBC's chairman of governors, director-general, and journalist Andrew Gilligan resigned in turn after the Hutton inquiry blamed the BBC for contributing to the apparent suicide of government scientist David Kelly, whom Gilligan had interviewed before reporting that the government had "sexed up" evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq. The survival of Britain's two most important conservative newspapers, the Daily and the Sunday Telegraph, is in question after the financial collapse of their owner, Lord Conrad Black. In October, the government approved commercial broadcasters Carlton and Granada to proceed with a £4-billion merger. The 2003 Communications Act eased media ownership restrictions and introduced a new regulatory body, the Office of Communications (OfCom), which will take over the functions of five previously separate regulators. Broadcasters were in favor of the new body, but print media were concerned that it might increase government interference with their activities. The old laws on copyright and confidentiality continue to pose a threat to the news media. Seven companies, four of which account for about 90 percent of sales, own the entire national press. The regional and local newspaper sector is also highly concentrated. There are four terrestrial television broadcasters, one of which is state-owned; cable is dominated by two companies. The state radio accounts for about half of all listeners.