Guardian Group

Guardian Group
   The Manchester Guardian, founded in 1821 and appearing as a daily newspaper since 1855, became under the editorship of C.P.Scott (from 1872 to 1929) the distinctive voice of intellectual liberalism not only in the Northwest but throughout Britain, although it depended on the Manchester Evening News for financial support. Shortening its title to the Guardian in 1959 was an assertion of its claim to be regarded as a national paper, and since 1961 it has been published in London. One of the ‘quality’ dailies in the characteristic ‘broadsheet’ format, the Guardian acquired a loyal readership. By the end of 1997 it was selling not far short of 400,000 copies a day (that is, a share of under 3 percent of the total national daily paper market, but around 14 percent of the ‘quality’ market) at a time when the Daily Telegraph’s circulation was 1.1 million and The Times had three-quarters of a million readers. Comparisons with the Independent are, however, perhaps more significant, as it was founded in 1986 to appeal to much the same readership as the Guardian; the latter outsells its rival by around 50 percent and appears to be forging further ahead.
   As well as publishing the Guardian, Guardian Newspapers, part of the Guardian Media Group, also owns the Observer. Renowned as the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper and with a reputation like that of the Guardian for sustaining over the years its critical radicalism on public issues and its nonconformist intellectual attitudes generally, the Observer underwent a number of disturbing changes in ownership, from the Astor family to the oil company Atlantic Richfield in 1976 and then, in 1981, being sold to R.W. (‘Tiny’) Rowland’s Lonrho conglomerate, before being taken into the Guardian Group in 1993. This seemed an ideal marriage and, at least in retrospect, a perfectly natural one, and sharing a plant offered economies in production. The Group has, however, had to cope with somewhat disappointing results from the Observer, despite attempts to restore its old vigour. At the end of 1997, although it outsold the Independent on Sunday, its most direct rival, by about 150,000 copies, it achieved sales of only a little more than 400,000. Although this represented around 14 percent of the total circulation for ‘quality’ Sunday papers, the numbers were under a third of those of the Sunday Times and less than half those of the Sunday Telegraph, and the enterprise was imposing financial strain on Guardian Newspapers as a whole.
   Further reading
    Taylor, G. (1993) Changing Faces: A History ofThe Guardian’, London: Fourth Estate.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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