The last two decades have witnessed a growing awareness among contemporary historians of the importance of mass communications in understanding historical developments over the last hundred years. Assumptions about the influence of propaganda, the escapist character of feature films, the newspaper as a ‘Fourth Estate’ in the political organisation of Britain, and the neutrality of ‘public service broadcasting’ have been subjected to rigorous and systematic examination. For many years contemporary historians in Britain, although less so in Europe and the United States, regarded the mass media as peripheral to their main concerns, and considered newspapers and films as unproblematical sources of evidence of public opinion. A wider discussion of the evaluation of historical sources and a greater awareness of the complex character of mass communications in society has provoked a change in outlook which is reflected in this book.
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