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When people talk about "free press" they mean a press that is independent of direct state control. Since the abolition of the Star Chamber Court and the abandonment of press licensing in 1695, as well as the 1792 Fox's Libel Act and the 1843 libel reforms, the British press was now believed to be independent of state's political, ideological and financial control (Currant, 2002, 79)…
Today, some of the influences that restrict the notion of press freedom include: "the political commitments and private interests of media shareholders, the influence exerted through news management and the ideological power of leading groups in society." (Currant 2002, 221)
The term "fourth estate" refers to media, which was the fourth estate after the proverbial "three estates": the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the House of Commons (MSN Encarta Online). More recently, it has come to refer to the press' "explicit capacity of advocacy and its implicit ability to frame political issues" (Wikipedia). Originally, the press stood in "an antagonistic and inquisitional role in relation to the state and its institutions", but with the changes in direct state control and the emergence of politically affiliated "free" press, the press has now become "a part of the political machine" (Negrine 1994, 44). Although the idea of the press as the "fourth estate" has been criticized as a myth, many critics suggest that politicians have a vested interest in maintaining the propaganda of an independent press. (Negrine 47). ...
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