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Newsreels by Poppy Simpson and Gemma Starkey
Introduction What Is a Newsreel? A Year in Newsreels War & the Newsreels Watching Newsreels  
War and the Newsreels

Why couldn't British news reporters freely cover the First World War? What restrictions were placed on newsreel companies during the Second?

In this film we look at the impact in Britain of both world wars on news coverage and on the newsreel companies themselves. Whereas today we would expect to see coverage of conflicts around the globe, during the First and Second World Wars war reporting was subject to immense scrutiny and censorship by the government. Restrictions included the prohibiting of any shots of soldiers and fighting and even banning scenes of Britain's weather. During World War One the government actually took over one of the newsreels so that it could present its own controlled news of the war directly to audiences. The Topical Budget newsreel was renamed 'Official War News' and was given exclusive access to footage taken by British official cameramen on the Western and other Fronts.

The press censorship system was again enforced during the Second World War - this time managed by the Ministry of Information. However, this time the newsreel companies managed to fight off official control through a single newsreel. They worked together in their relations with the government and a pooling or rotation system was used to ensure that all the operational theatres of conflict were covered. Newsreels were also restricted on the amount of precious film stock they were able to use - each issue being limited to 700 feet (about 7 minutes in length).

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