*The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900-1945*

That is the subtitle, the title of this very interesting book is News from Germany and the author is Heidi J.S. Tworek.  Here are a few things I learned:

1. “News agencies became the central firms collecting international news from the mid-nineteenth century.  The “Big Three” news agencies were all created in this period: Agence Havas in the early 1830s, Telgraphisches Bureau (Wolff) in 1849, and Reuters Telegram Company in 1851.”

2. There were very high fixed costs in telegraphic news gathering, and the telegraph was essential to being a major international news service.  Those costs included financing a network of correspondents abroad and the expense of sending telegrams.

3. The three companies colluded, in part to lower the cost of news collection, and maintained a relatively stable cartel of sorts, running from 1870 up through the outbreak of World War II.  World War I was a hiatus but not a break in the basic arrangement.  The AP was added to the cartel in 1893.

4. These news agencies, being well-identified and somewhat monopolistic, were susceptible to political control, especially from Germany.  But note that the British censored information coming from the Boer War.

5. The post WWII era was an exception, and throughout most of modern history it has been difficult to turn a profit by selling news coverage.



So, where do newsreels fits into this picture, being almost perfectly covered by that 1900-45 time frame? 'Newsreel, short motion picture of current events introduced in England about 1897 by the Frenchman Charles Pathé. Newsreels were shown regularly, first in music halls between entertainment acts and later between the featured films in motion-picture theatres. Because spot news was expensive to shoot, newsreels covered expected events, such as parades, inaugurations, sport contests, bathing beauty contests, and residual news, such as floods.

Among the best-known early newsreel series were the Pathé-Journal (1908), shown first in England and France, and the Pathé Weekly (1912), produced for American audiences. The March of Time (1935), produced in the United States by Time, Inc., illustrated the influence of the documentary film by combining filmed news with interpretive interviews and dramatizations. With the rising popularity of television news reports, documentaries, and specials, the number of newsreels declined markedly. By the late 1950s the last of the American weeklies, Fox Movietone News, had gone out of business.' https://www.britannica.com/topic/newsreel

After all, by 1920, the effort to control world communications most definitely included what people were able to see in the context of regular movie going.

The Harvard Press link is not bad providing context - 'To control information is to control the world. This innovative history reveals how, across two devastating wars, Germany attempted to build a powerful communication empire—and how the Nazis manipulated the news to rise to dominance in Europe and further their global agenda.

Information warfare may seem like a new feature of our contemporary digital world. But it was just as crucial a century ago, when the great powers competed to control and expand their empires. In News from Germany, Heidi Tworek uncovers how Germans fought to regulate information at home and used the innovation of wireless technology to magnify their power abroad.

Tworek reveals how for nearly fifty years, across three different political regimes, Germany tried to control world communications—and nearly succeeded. From the turn of the twentieth century, German political and business elites worried that their British and French rivals dominated global news networks.'

Though this seems remarkably exaggerated - 'The key to the British and French advantage was their news agencies—companies whose power over the content and distribution of news was arguably greater than that wielded by Google or Facebook today.' Any number of the major media magnates in the U.S. would have disputed that claim - but really, who remembers Hearst or Pulitzer these days? - or the Maine, for that matter.

And one really wonders where the Soviets show up in this work, as their attempts to control the news were not exactly trivial or unsuccessful.

I sorta miss that "Voice of Ghod" narration style one hears in these old newsreels (and much of early TV). Does anyone even do that anymore, or did it end when "And that's the way it is" Walter Cronkite retired?

Monopolistic and censorious? Yikes. Can anything good be said about the good old days of big business?

That yellow looks fabulous when worn by the press?

I'm puzzled by #5.

If it's so hard to turn a profit, how come P.J. Reuters and B. Wolff (two Havas ex-employees) opened their own successful business before WW1?

This is what I was thinking. They were maybe looking for more than money with this news agency. Controlling information gives a lot of power and power can be monetized in different ways.

Uh, Rupert Murdoch is running a Ponzi scheme?

Maybe, that news "agencies" sell news coverage, whereas news "papers" sell advertisements (and even there, mostly via sports coverage) ??

Of course, the point is that much of the "news" was propaganda. I'm old enough to remember the news reel played before the beginning of the day's feature film, narrated by the comforting voice of Lowell Thomas. Is "propaganda" an exaggeration? I suppose so. Self-censorship for the good of the country may be more accurate. Not unlike Cowen's love letter to big business.

I've marveled at the reach of the Daily Mail. Something horrible happens next door, 5000 miles from London, it's a certainty the Daily Mail will have photos, details, names many hours before the American media outlets, and more info than the local newsgatherers as well.

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