The Rise of the Press as the "Fourth Force"

(The media, politics and wider public in the time of the mass communications)


  • Andreas Schulz Univerza Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Frankfurt am Main, Nemčija


press, newspapers, public opinion, democracy, liberalism


The author presents the press as the fourth force or arm of government - after the legislative, executive and judiciary - and outlines the rise in its significance from the first half of the nineteenth century up to the Cuban crisis in the early 1960s. He expounds the emergence of a "mass-communication society" in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was based on a rapid and evenhanded dissemination of information, as a result of technological progress in printing techniques as well as favourable political circumstances during the liberalist period that allowed for the development of free press and printing. Press freedom became synonymous with political freedom. Technological progress made news-papers cheaper and available to the masses. What took place in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was, in fact, a mass-media revolution. Newspapers became the "factories of public opinion" and an instrument in the hands of politicians to "guide and control public opinion and will". According to the author, the mass-media revolution which took place in the second half of the nineteenth century and in the first three decades of the twentieth, show that the history of media should be treated primarily as part of the history of politics.