24 January 2008


For the first time since 1974, sales of Britain's biggest selling red-top, the Sun, has fallen below the three million mark.

Times may be a changing at Murdoch's News Corporation, but the lads favourite still outsells the Independent and the Guardian ten fold. Why?

The Sun's high celebrity content, tit bits, and lowly cover price are, of course, part of the reason why sales of the tabloid tops the broadsheets, but could the Sun be appealing to some more basic human need?

Part of the explanation for the disparity could be explained by the relationship that has developed between the Tabloids and the public.

As a result of an increasingly fragmented British society the human need to be part of a wider community is not being satisfied. In the absence of a more neighbourly society people are turning to the Tabloids to feel part of something communal, somewhere where their views can be represented and shared.

The perceived failure of post war collectivism in Britain in the 1970’s gave way to a revival, of eighteenth century classical economics that has endured to the present day. The political exponents of classical economics looked to liberal economists such as Milton Friedman and Adam Smith who believed, broadly, that economic activity should be guided by self-interest alone. Unsurprisingly, since the redeployment of classical economics British culture has been characterised by individualism.

Classical economics, a theory dependent on people competing and not co-operating, has socially disenfranchised the populous leaving them feeling insecure and isolated. The relative success of the Tabloid Press in attracting literally millions more readers than the qualities may be explained by their ability to fulfil its readers need to belong.

It could be argued positively, that the Tabloids existing within a society deformed by globalisation, political integration with Europe and America, are providing the populous with a public sphere in which they can be heard. There is a danger, however, that the need of the populous to belong is being exploited by the Tabloids for profit?

If the media’s primary function is to make money for its shareholders then the Tabloids will need to combine the satisfaction of its readers needs with its own wider economic interest. As Chomsky (1996) says:

"Their (The Media) primary function is selling audiences to advertisers. They don't make money from their subscriptions. They're not going to pay for a discussion that encourages people to participate democratically and undermine corporate power."

In the absence of a co-operative and socially inclusive society the Tabloid Press effectively seduce a fragmented, needy and disparate people into its fold.

In my opinion, as a consequence of the human need to belong a symbiosis has developed between the Tabloids and the people and as long as the State fails to provide this function for its people the Sun will continue to out-sell the Guardian and the Independent.