By Anthony Smith
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When C. P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, delivered his most famous of all sayings: 'Comment is free but facts are sacred', he was echoing this ingrained belief that the medium of the newspaper 34 Television and Political Life somehow depended on this bifurcated system of discourse. When radio was first organised in Britain in 1921, a prototype of the BBC was set up, of wh ich the governing stmcture was largely drawn from the radio manufacturing industry. In the early years the newspaper publishers had persuaded the government that the infant broadcasting organisation should be permitted to broadcast no news at all, and in particular, no controversial material.
The most powerful means of information has been established by the highest authorities of the State according to the mIes and criteria of political authoritarianism. s Nevertheless, after 1968 the ideological climate in French political circles began to change, very slowly at first, but thereafter with increasing rapidity. Belief in the infallibility of the administration and confidence in the state began to cmmble. The technocratic conception of the state sustained by the Gaullists came under criticism from both left and right.
Senior civil servants in charge of the RTF, who had, so to speak, 'a sense of [the] State', applied themselves to this task with the same zeal as their predecessors, by different means but in the same spirit, had worked for a secular society and for the Republic at the end of the nineteenth century. During the first years of the Fifth Republic the Opposition was in a poor position to counter-attack. The former Ministers of Information among its ranks (including important left-wing leaders such as Gaston Defferre and Francois Mitterrand) had proved no less intolerant in their time.