Government Media Policy during the Falklands War
Thornton, Joanna Margaret
This study addresses Government media policy throughout the Falklands War of 1982. It considers the effectiveness, and charts the development of, Falklands-related public relations’ policy by departments including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The literature of the 1980s concerning the media during the conflict still dominates the historiography of the subject. This thesis is the first significant reappraisal of the work offered during the decade in which the war occurred. It is informed by recently released archive material and newly conducted interviews, and boasts an extensive analysis of the content of the printed press during the conflict. \ud \ud There are a number of central hypotheses contained in this research (as well as many lesser theories). This thesis argues that media policy observed by the MoD in relation to the Task Force journalists was ill-prepared, reactionary, driven by internal MoD motivation and that ultimately, control of policy was devolved to the men on the ground. This thesis advances that MoD media policy in Britain, while as reactive as that rolled out to the Task Force, became more effective as the war progressed. The MoD failed to adequately cater for the British media until the middle of May 1982, at which time a number of sensible and potentially successful initiatives were introduced – specifically the News Release Group and the Military Briefing Group. It is also the contention of this work that the machinery developed centrally, by the Cabinet Office and No.10 Press Office in the form of the South Atlantic Presentation Unit and Information Group, had the potential to be successful additions to the regular organisation of Government. However, neither had enough authority and were plagued by departmental rivalries. While the media-related initiatives of the MoD ultimately became more successful, those of wider Government became less effective. Finally, this thesis provides a serious analysis of the printed press in order to substantiate the hypothesis that much of what had been argued about the printed press was generalised and oversimplified – its reliance on Argentine source material, its jingoistic nature, the dominance of reports on armed conflict and its aversion to a diplomatic settlement.